• Post published:April 15, 2021
  • Post category:Blog

Las Vegas Sands sets its sights on Texas. By David McKee

We view Texas as a worldwide destination and one of the top potential markets in the entire world. Texas is considered the biggest plum still waiting … in the history of hospitality and gaming.” So said Las Vegas Sands lobbyist Andy Abboud, speaking to the Texas Taxpayers & Research Association.

Considering that Sands had recently passed on Japan, to say that Texas is the big enchilada bespeaks confidence. Abboud’s boss, the late Sheldon Adelson, had tagged it as a $10 billion a year market in the past.

Adelson, who poured $4.5 million into the Texas Republican Party’s war chest last year, was calling in his marker. He wanted megaresort casinos legalized in the Lone Star State. There have been sputterings of attempted legalization over the years but they usually run into intransigent resistance from both the horse racing industry and the Religious Right. This time Las Vegas Sands is fielding a crack team of lobbyists that includes Karen Rove.

The pitch, which continues unabated under new CEO Rob Goldstein, is for a limited number of “destination resorts” that would “blend into the existing infrastructure.” Abboud says budgets should be in the $1 billion-$3 billion range because “you absolutely only get the best companies bidding and they are forced by law to build an incredible facility.” Going in Sands’ favor is a $4.6 billion budget shortfall in Texas that has lawmakers so desperate that they might legalize marijuana, let alone casinos.

However, the company faces an immovable opponent in Gov. Greg Abbott. Some have speculated that gambling might come to the Lone Star State through the soft underbelly of sports betting. But Abbott nixed that last year when the state lottery tried to add it to its offering.

Nor will the lottery welcome competition from casinos, while the Texas Baptists Christian Commission has already sounded off against gaming, saying, “We think that the elected members of the Legislature, as in the past, would recognize that this type of opportunity is not economic development and will end up hurting the state more than it would end up helping it.”
If anybody could finance and create a $3 billion megaresort it’s Sands and one doesn’t bet against them lightly. But compared to far-right Texas, opening Macao to competition may seem like a cakewalk.

*Originally written December 2020*