Las Vegas Sands Ends Lobbying Campaign for a South Florida Casino
The Las Vegas Sands has ended its lobbying efforts in the state of Florida, bringing to an end an attempt to build an integrated resort-casino in the Miami area. Sheldon Adelson decided over the weekend to call an end to the lobbying effort, according to a key lobbyist for the Sands–Nick Larossi.
Larossi said that LVS canceled its public relations and lobbying contracts with Florida lobbying firms on Monday. Nick Larossi said he understood the decision to pull the plug, given that the Las Vegas gaming company has seen so little return on its investment. The lobbyist sad, “I understand that perspective. We’ve been pushing this for six years with no success.”
Integrated Casino in Miami
It had long been a dream of Sheldon Adelson’s to bring a Las Vegas-style casino resort to the South Florida area. He had plans to build a world class casino with luxury rooms, upscale retail areas, a convention center, and restaurants in a massive gaming complex. The Las Vegas Sands’ efforts were supposed to be part of a program in which two major casinos would be built in South Florida, with the Genting Group out of Malaysia a likely option for the second casino.
The plan had been opposed by a wide range of interests. The Seminole Tribe of Florida owns a casino gaming monopoly in the state and had lobbied hard to keep competition out. The Disney Corporation used its considerable influence against such a plan, saying expanded gambling would hurt the longstanding tourist industry of Florida, which has long marketed itself as family-friendly. As a hybrid southern state, Florida also has a substantial social conservative element, which opposes casino gambling on moral grounds.
LVS’s Efforts to Legalize Private Casinos
Despite the substantial forces arrayed against him, Sheldon Adelson entered the Florida sphere 6 years ago confident he would have his way. Awash in cash from his Macau gaming ventures, no one had more money to spend on lobbying than Las Vegas Sands.
As late as the beginning of 2014, Sheldon Adelson would become the 8th-richest person on Earth, with a wealth estimated at $38 billion. But that was before Chinese President Xi Jinping’s corruption investigations reached Macau, bringing the Asian high roller market in the world’s largest gaming destination crashing to the ground. Sheldon Adelson lost $11 billion over the past year and a half, so the activist political contributor and gambling mogul has to pick his battles a little more cautiously these days.
Reasons Adelson Ended Florida Efforts
Recent signs that Florida and the Seminoles would agree to a new compact likely to allow the tribal casinos their blackjack monopoly may have been instrumental in Monday’s decision. Also, a general realization may have settled on LVS and its executives: Florida is a losing proposition. Andy Abboud, the Las Vegas Sands’ Vice President of Government Relations, summed it up best this week when he said, “No matter who wanted it, they weren’t going to get destination gaming in Florida; it doesn’t matter who you are.”
Abboud’s was referencing attempts by Florida lawmakers to pass a casino gambling bill. In 2012, former State Senator Ellyn Setnor Bogdanoff tried to pass a bill for 3 casinos. Earlier in 2015, State Rep. Dana Young of Tampa tried the same thing with a 2-casino bill, but was similarly rebuffed. Florida politicians have talked about passing a law which would allow casinos, but assure no other expansion of gambling ever could take place. Others talked of needing an amendment at the state level to see casinos installed in the Miami area.
Lobbying in Georgia Now
Instead, Sheldon Adelson has decided to focus on the nearby state of Georgia, where politicians appear much more willing to legalize casino gambling. MGM Resorts has begun a lobbying effort in Georgia earlier this year, while Adelson and his executive team was set to speak to Georgia lawmakers on Wednesday this week.
Georgia politicians are considering inventive ways to assure casino gambling is legalized. Instead of facing a tough battle to legalize at the state level, lawmakers have considered passing a law which would leave the decision to the individual county governments, in a move similar to a 2011 alcohol bill.
Likely Results of Current Efforts
If so, Georgia likely would have a major casino industry within a few years. The gaming dollars that would have gone to the Florida treasury now will flow into Georgia’s treasury, while the Seminoles will have to worry about Floridians in the northern half of the state going to Las Vegas Sands’ integrated casino in Georgia.