The company has retained over 50 Texas lobbyists to work the Legislature in Austin in its current session.
“Texas, obviously, is an extraordinary market,” said Las Vegas Sands Chairman and CEO Rob Goldstein in a conference call with industry analysts in late January. “You can’t deny the power of Texas, the size and scale. I was there last week, and it was a fascinating couple of days.”
Goldstein was recently appointed to lead the publicly-traded Las Vegas Sands, following the Jan. 11 death of company founder Sheldon Adelson. In the six months prior to his passing, Mr. Adelson donated over $5 million to Texas politicians, including $500,000 to Gov. Greg Abbott.
“We’re having conversations,” Goldstein said. “We’re looking, kicking the tires and we’ll advise you when something emerges from Texas. It would be a great casino market for a land-based store, whatever. It could be a huge opportunity.”
In early January, Las Vegas Sands brought Texas lobbyists to the Vegas Strip for a three-day retreat. The casino company has The Venetian Resort and the Palazzo in Las Vegas along with its major Asian revenue generators – casinos in Macao and Singapore.
Las Vegas Sands is not alone in working in the Texas Legislature to advocate for change. Both Caesars Entertainment and MGM Resorts have some lobbyists working in Austin.
Houston billionaire Tilman Fertitta, owner of the Golden Nugget casinos, has been politically active for years and he is chairman of the Board of Regents at the University of Houston.
On Monday, Fertitta announced he was taking his casino/hotel/ restaurant empire public. Fertitta indicated that his organization would have a strong focus on casinos in the future. He could not be reached for an updated comment to the gambling advocacy in Texas, although he has voiced support in recent years. He currently owns five Golden Nugget casino properties, including properties in Las Vegas and western Louisiana.
Covid 19 devastated the nation’s economy, but few sectors suffered as much as the hospitality and casino businesses.
The pandemic damaged the Las Vegas Sands’ 2020 performance, but in 2019, it reported almost $14 billion in annual revenue – giving it the financial leverage to expand into the Lone Star State’s vast gambling frontier.
Native American tribes currently operate the three existing casinos in Texas, located in Livingston, Eagle Pass and El Paso.
Gambling backers say full-fledged casinos in Texas’s largest cities would generate much-needed tax dollars, create jobs and bolster tourism, the convention business and state’s plethora of troubled hotel operators. Texas gamblers currently travel across the border to visit casinos in Lake Charles, La. and Oklahoma.
Texas could be a world-class gambling destination that could rival Japan or Brazil, said Las Vegas Sands government relations executive Andy Abboud in a December speech, according to Gambling News.
Texas doesn’t need cheesy little casinos with a dozen slot machines in a suburban strip center. Abboud said four-star casino properties that cost a billion or two each is what should be built in the Lone Star State – and the law should require big league casinos.
So casinos anxiously wait to see if the state Legislature will hold’em, fold’em or try to hit the jackpot.
“Texas is considered the biggest plum still waiting to be out there in the history of hospitality and gaming,” Abboud said.
Feb. 2, 2021 Realty News Report Copyright 2021
File: Texas Hold’em: Going All-In
Caption: Las Vegas Strip. Copyright Photo 2021 by Ralph Bivins, Realty News Report