Las Vegas Sands Pours $17mn into Florida Casino Expansion Effort

Las Vegas Sands, the Nevada-based major casino operator, is understood to have donated $17 million to a Jacksonville-based political committee that is behind two initiatives seeking to expand casino gambling in Florida.

Florida Voters in Charge received the generous donation before a July 1 deadline set by a new law that caps contributions to petition-gathering campaigns at $3,000 per entity.

The political committee has submitted two casino development pitches for the ballot. Under the first proposal, Las Vegas-style gambling with table games such as craps and roulette would be permitted at Florida’s existing card rooms as long as they are 130 miles away from tribal land in South Florida. Card room operators would also be required to invest at least $250 million into setting up their casino operations.

The Seminole Tribe of Florida, owner and operator of the Hard Rock brand, has control over casino gambling in the state, including at seven casinos in South Florida.

The second initiative, if it appears on the ballot and gets approved, would allow up to three new casino licenses to be issued for gambling venues located at least 100 miles away from tribal land. The developers of these venues would have to spend at least $500 million on their projects.

News about the new casino expansion initiatives emerge shortly after Gov. Ron DeSantis signed a 30-year compact with the Seminoles that authorized the tribe to expand its existing casino offering and to provide sports betting services in exchange for contributing at least $500 million to the state for the first five years and sharing a portion of its revenue afterward.

A spokesperson for Florida Voters in Charge told local news outlets that the 100/130-mile radius provision in both proposals is very important because staying outside of the radius does not impact the above-mentioned revenue-sharing agreement with the tribe.

Sands Has Long Been Eyeing Florida’s Market

Las Vegas Sands has previously expressed interest into bringing its signature integrated resort experience to Florida. The company is said to have mostly eyed the lucrative Miami market. Following news about its recent donation, a company spokesperson said it currently has no specific plan for its potential expansion in the state should an opportunity arise.

In March, the company announced that it has entered into an agreement to sell its Venetian, Palazzo, and Sands Expo and Convention Center properties in Las Vegas to private equity firm Apollo Global Management and VICI Properties for $6.25 billion. The deal is expected to close later this year.

Sands said at the time that offloading those properties would enable it to focus more on its Macau and Singapore casino resorts and to explore expansion opportunities elsewhere in the US.

The major operator launched in April a multimillion-dollar advertising blitz calling for the legalization of Las Vegas-style casinos in Texas. The company’s campaign aimed to help a casino bill sweep through the Legislature.

However, the measure had little chance to survive during a session that was dominated by the coronavirus pandemic and the winter weather crisis. In addition, state lawmakers have historically been opposed to gambling matters and lending their support is a task of extreme complexity.

Source: Multimillion-dollar casino proposal could come to Jacksonville, 104.5 WOKV, July 14, 2021