Las Vegas Sands CEO: ‘Not An Easy Process’ to Get on Florida Ballot

Las Vegas Sands CEO: ‘Not An Easy Process’ to Get on Florida Ballot
By Bill Ordine

Las Vegas Sands CEO Rob Goldstein briefly discussed his company’s effort in pushing a petition to land a referendum item on the November ballot in Florida during a fourth-quarter 2021 earnings call Wednesday.

That item to be decided by the voters could add more casino gambling in Florida, specifically Las Vegas-style casino gambling in North Florida, including in the Jacksonville area.

But it’s a steep climb to even get the issue on the ballot for a voters’ decision. The question needs a requisite number of valid petition signatures: 891,589 by Jan. 31. A recent count has 624,686 signatures with the clock ticking.

Still, another petition that would open the Florida sports betting market to more wide-open online gambling is being advanced and funded by DraftKings and FanDuel, but it appears to have an even slimmer chance of getting the required signatures.

Sports betting was started by the Seminole Tribe in November, but it was struck down by a federal court. The U.S. Department of the Interior said last week it plans on appealing the ruling, saying the tribe’s sports betting venture in Florida did not violate the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act.

The Sands Casino Initiative

If it gets on the ballot and is approved, the Sands initiative would allow businesses with active cardroom licenses to offer casino gaming as long as they are located 130 miles in a straight line away from any of the seven Seminole tribal casinos in the state, and also expend $250 million in capital investments, meaning new development and construction costs on the gaming complex, within three years after the start of casino gaming.

Developing elaborate integrated casinos is Las Vegas Sands’ forte.

“We’re in the signature-gathering mode,” Goldstein said Wednesday evening during the earnings call. “It’s a struggle down there. It’s not an easy process to go through but we’re trying very much to be in the hunt in Florida. We really appreciate how underserved that market is and the opportunities exist for a land-based top-tier casino in that market. It would be wonderful.”

Las Vegas Sands has spent millions in pushing the casino petition.

A Shift in Strategy

Overall, Las Vegas Sands has shifted its attention from the U.S. to Asia where it has casino operations in Macau and Singapore. Last year, it agreed to sell its signature Las Vegas holdings, the Venetian and the Palazzo casino resorts, to a private equity fund (Apollo Global Management) and a real estate investment trust for about a combined $6 billion. The deal closes this year.

As far as company earnings for the fourth quarter 2021 were concerned, net revenue was $1.01 billion, a decrease of 0.7% from the previous year quarter. Operating loss was $138 million, compared to operating loss of $119 million in the previous year quarter. Net loss in the fourth quarter of 2021 was $315 million, compared to net loss of $303 million in the fourth quarter of 2020. Full year 2021 operating loss was $689 million, compared to operating loss of $1.39 billion in 2020.

Most of Sands’ presentation was about its hopes for a resurgence in Asia but it did mention areas of interest in the U.S.

Other U.S. Interests for Sands

Regarding New York, LVS was upbeat about Gov. Kathy Hochul’s comments that she favored adding three downstate casinos. For years, Las Vegas Sands has yearned to put a casino in or near New York City.

Goldstein also said the company remains interested in gaming in Texas — if that state ever allows commercial gambling. But, he said, prospects in Texas were distant.

In terms of online gambling, LVS continued its low roll in that area and Goldstein said, “It hasn’t been a bad idea to wait the last six to eight months to see how (online sports gambling) shakes out.”

The last few months have seen the stock market pummel online sports gaming stocks and there’s been substantial drops in many online gaming company valuations as expenses outstrip revenues.

“There’s been a lot of blood spilled,” Goldstein noted. “We’ll continue to evaluate to see if there’s an entry point for LVS.”

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Contributors

Bill Ordine
Expert Opinion Columnist

Bill Ordine was a reporter and editor in news and sports for the Philadelphia Inquirer and Baltimore Sun for 25 years, and was a lead reporter on a team that was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize in Breaking News. Bill started reporting on casinos and gaming shortly after Atlantic City’s first gambling halls opened and wrote a syndicated column on travel to casino destinations for 10 years. He covered the World Series of Poker for a decade and his articles on gaming have appeared in many major U.S. newspapers, such as the Los Angeles Times, Chicago Tribune, Miami Herald and others.

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