Las Vegas Sands plans to use proceeds from its sale of The...

Las Vegas Sands plans to use proceeds from its sale of The Venetian, above, to develop a casino resort in Nassau County. Credit: GC Images/AaronP/Bauer-Griffin

Las Vegas Sands, one of the biggest operators on the famed Nevada gambling strip for decades before selling its U.S. properties to focus on Asia, has spent millions on its latest bet: expanding casinos in other states.

With no success so far in Florida and Texas, where gambling laws are more restrictive, Sands' $4 billion proposed casino resort on the Nassau Coliseum site might be a stronger hand.

The company's 2022 attempt to get a ballot referendum for full-scale, Vegas-style resorts in north Florida failed. Sands leaders said they'll continue lobbying for a statewide constitutional amendment to legalize gambling in Texas' biggest metro areas while preparing for a highly competitive bid to secure a gaming license in New York.

Although its corporate headquarters remains in Las Vegas, Sands is interested in markets with dense populations and less competition, according to Ron Reese, senior vice president of global communications and corporate affairs.

"Yes, we are aggressively pursuing Texas and New York at the same time," he told Newsday. "Our strategy has been: We want to do large-scale development in limited license jurisdictions where we can maximize our return for our shareholders and maximize employment opportunities for those communities as well."

Sands announced the sale of its signature property on the Las Vegas strip, The Venetian resort and complex, for $6.25 billion following the 2021 death of its CEO and chairman, Sheldon Adelson. COVID-19 shutdowns rocked the industry a year before.

Sands reported a $1.69 billion net loss in 2020, according to Forbes. It recovered in 2022, with a net profit of $1.83 billion, the publication reported.

The company is still investing in Asia, where it owns six resorts and has seen increased competition.

Other proceeds are going to political efforts to expand casinos in the U.S.

Sands spent $75 million through a nonprofit political action committee called Florida Voters in Charge before abandoning efforts in April 2022 to put casino gambling on the ballot, according to filings with the Florida Department of State Division of Elections.

Based in Jacksonville Beach, the PAC lost to its direct political opponent, Standing Up for Florida, a PAC sponsored by the Seminole Tribe of Florida, the only entity allowed to operate casinos in the state as of 2022.

Standing Up for Florida spent about $40 million to thwart the effort, according to Division of Elections financial disclosures.

Sands also has a PAC in Texas, where Reese confirmed the company will continue to push for a referendum to allow casino gambling.

Miriam Adelson — Sands' majority shareholder and Adelson's widow — donated $2.3 million to launch Texas Sands PAC in January 2022.

The group has donated to campaigns of incumbent lawmakers facing primary competition, according to filings with the Texas Ethics Commission.

Spending in New York appears to be limited so far to Sands' initial steps to secure a site in Nassau, where it is negotiating a lease to take over the county-owned Coliseum property.

Sands paid the consulting firm Brown & Weinraub $210,000 to discuss its plans with County Executive Bruce Blakeman, Deputy Chief County Executive Arthur Walsh and Legis. Siela Bynoe (D-Westbury), according to a filing with the state Commission on Ethics and Lobbying in Government that shows the six-month reporting period ending in December.

The plan to win a downstate New York gaming license, and eventually several in Texas, has been in the works since Sands sold The Venetian and the Sands Casino Resort Bethlehem in Pennsylvania, which sold for $1.3 billion in 2019.

The company is "redeploying" some of the proceeds toward its efforts in New York and Texas, Reese said.

New York is further along in the game when it comes to gambling laws.

A 2013 state constitutional amendment authorized up to seven commercial casinos in the state. Four licenses have been granted to resort casinos in upstate New York since.

Sands is one of about a dozen entities vying for a downstate license that would allow traditional table games, slot machines and other video and digital games.

According to the state Gaming Facility Board, about 70% of a successful application rides on the bidder's initial capital investment, the creation of well-paying jobs, local business opportunities and the quality of the resort amenities. 

Sands also eventually needs approval from a local community advisory committee, the Town of Hempstead zoning board and a state site selection panel.

Alan Woinski, CEO of Gaming USA Corporation, a gambling industry consulting firm, said only a few Las Vegas casino resort companies would be able to build in densely populated markets, and Sands is one of them because of their track record of offering non-gambling amenities.

Before Sands sold The Venetian, it was the Vegas strip’s top performer for non-gambling revenue, he said.

“They want a good area. They want places where they can make money. They are probably the only company that consistently builds integrated resorts. They want the special events, the conventions. They want the business traveler,” said Woinski.

In January, Sands announced tentative agreements to take over the Nassau County land lease for more than 70 acres at the Coliseum to build an "integrated resort" featuring a day spa, swimming pool and health club, celebrity-chef restaurants, "experiential events and venues" and meeting and convention space, including ballrooms.

The property, also known as the "Nassau Hub," is among the largest undeveloped tracts of public land in Nassau.

With control of the entire property, the Sands plan could consume the most acreage of any proposal announced by casino operators and developers in Westchester, Manhattan, Brooklyn and Queens since January.

The second largest plot would be New York Mets owner Steve Cohen's plans for a casino entertainment complex around the team’s ballpark in Queens, which includes 50 acres of land.

A majority of the revenue for Nassau proposal would come from "high-quality casino gaming," expected to comprise less than 10% of the total square footage, Sands officials said.

Reese declined to discuss the status of ongoing lease negotiations or whether Sands would apply for a gaming license on any other New York property.

Blakeman, a Republican who took office in January 2022, has declined to discuss the lease transfer or whether he supports the project. It was among the priorities outlined in his State of the County address in March.

Blakeman "has said from the beginning that the proposal must be world-class, with a luxury hotel and entertainment component, bring significant revenue to the county and surrounding areas including construction and permanent jobs, and have the support of the community, in order to move forward," said his spokesman, Christopher Boyle.

Any lease transfer or new land agreement between Nassau and Sands requires approval of the 19-member county legislature.

No legislator has taken a public position on the project. Republicans hold a 12-7 majority.

Hank Sheinkopf, a Manhattan-based consultant who has worked on Democratic campaigns, said the potential political headwinds are worth watching at the local and state levels.

Republicans could pay in countywide elections in November if they grant the lease to development that could inconvenience voters, he said.   

"But then if it doesn't happen, then the local Republicans can blame the Democrats in the state," he said.   

Of the state approval process, Sheinkopf added: "Why would the Democrats give Republicans scores and scores of jobs? Everything is partisan and everything is politics."

Las Vegas Sands, one of the biggest operators on the famed Nevada gambling strip for decades before selling its U.S. properties to focus on Asia, has spent millions on its latest bet: expanding casinos in other states.

With no success so far in Florida and Texas, where gambling laws are more restrictive, Sands' $4 billion proposed casino resort on the Nassau Coliseum site might be a stronger hand.

The company's 2022 attempt to get a ballot referendum for full-scale, Vegas-style resorts in north Florida failed. Sands leaders said they'll continue lobbying for a statewide constitutional amendment to legalize gambling in Texas' biggest metro areas while preparing for a highly competitive bid to secure a gaming license in New York.

Although its corporate headquarters remains in Las Vegas, Sands is interested in markets with dense populations and less competition, according to Ron Reese, senior vice president of global communications and corporate affairs.

What to know

  • Las Vegas Sands was one of the biggest operators on the Vegas strip for decades before selling its properties in recent years to focus on its casino resorts in Asia. It has spent millions lobbying to resume business in the U.S. by expanding casinos in other states.
  • Sands' attempt to put casino gambling on the ballot in north Florida failed in 2022. The company is trying to do the same in Texas' four biggest cities.
  • A 2013 state constitutional amendment authorized up to seven commercial casinos in New York. Sands is one of about a dozen entities vying for three remaining licenses and has proposed a $4 billion casino resort on the Nassau Coliseum site.

"Yes, we are aggressively pursuing Texas and New York at the same time," he told Newsday. "Our strategy has been: We want to do large-scale development in limited license jurisdictions where we can maximize our return for our shareholders and maximize employment opportunities for those communities as well."

Vegas profits go to political spending

Sands announced the sale of its signature property on the Las Vegas strip, The Venetian resort and complex, for $6.25 billion following the 2021 death of its CEO and chairman, Sheldon Adelson. COVID-19 shutdowns rocked the industry a year before.

Sands reported a $1.69 billion net loss in 2020, according to Forbes. It recovered in 2022, with a net profit of $1.83 billion, the publication reported.

The company is still investing in Asia, where it owns six resorts and has seen increased competition.

Other proceeds are going to political efforts to expand casinos in the U.S.

Sands spent $75 million through a nonprofit political action committee called Florida Voters in Charge before abandoning efforts in April 2022 to put casino gambling on the ballot, according to filings with the Florida Department of State Division of Elections.

Based in Jacksonville Beach, the PAC lost to its direct political opponent, Standing Up for Florida, a PAC sponsored by the Seminole Tribe of Florida, the only entity allowed to operate casinos in the state as of 2022.

Standing Up for Florida spent about $40 million to thwart the effort, according to Division of Elections financial disclosures.

Sands also has a PAC in Texas, where Reese confirmed the company will continue to push for a referendum to allow casino gambling.

Miriam Adelson — Sands' majority shareholder and Adelson's widow — donated $2.3 million to launch Texas Sands PAC in January 2022.

The group has donated to campaigns of incumbent lawmakers facing primary competition, according to filings with the Texas Ethics Commission.

Spending in New York appears to be limited so far to Sands' initial steps to secure a site in Nassau, where it is negotiating a lease to take over the county-owned Coliseum property.

Sands paid the consulting firm Brown & Weinraub $210,000 to discuss its plans with County Executive Bruce Blakeman, Deputy Chief County Executive Arthur Walsh and Legis. Siela Bynoe (D-Westbury), according to a filing with the state Commission on Ethics and Lobbying in Government that shows the six-month reporting period ending in December.

New York a better bet?

The plan to win a downstate New York gaming license, and eventually several in Texas, has been in the works since Sands sold The Venetian and the Sands Casino Resort Bethlehem in Pennsylvania, which sold for $1.3 billion in 2019.

The company is "redeploying" some of the proceeds toward its efforts in New York and Texas, Reese said.

New York is further along in the game when it comes to gambling laws.

A 2013 state constitutional amendment authorized up to seven commercial casinos in the state. Four licenses have been granted to resort casinos in upstate New York since.

Sands is one of about a dozen entities vying for a downstate license that would allow traditional table games, slot machines and other video and digital games.

According to the state Gaming Facility Board, about 70% of a successful application rides on the bidder's initial capital investment, the creation of well-paying jobs, local business opportunities and the quality of the resort amenities. 

Sands also eventually needs approval from a local community advisory committee, the Town of Hempstead zoning board and a state site selection panel.

Alan Woinski, CEO of Gaming USA Corporation, a gambling industry consulting firm, said only a few Las Vegas casino resort companies would be able to build in densely populated markets, and Sands is one of them because of their track record of offering non-gambling amenities.

Before Sands sold The Venetian, it was the Vegas strip’s top performer for non-gambling revenue, he said.

“They want a good area. They want places where they can make money. They are probably the only company that consistently builds integrated resorts. They want the special events, the conventions. They want the business traveler,” said Woinski.

Nassau negotiations

In January, Sands announced tentative agreements to take over the Nassau County land lease for more than 70 acres at the Coliseum to build an "integrated resort" featuring a day spa, swimming pool and health club, celebrity-chef restaurants, "experiential events and venues" and meeting and convention space, including ballrooms.

The property, also known as the "Nassau Hub," is among the largest undeveloped tracts of public land in Nassau.

With control of the entire property, the Sands plan could consume the most acreage of any proposal announced by casino operators and developers in Westchester, Manhattan, Brooklyn and Queens since January.

The second largest plot would be New York Mets owner Steve Cohen's plans for a casino entertainment complex around the team’s ballpark in Queens, which includes 50 acres of land.

A majority of the revenue for Nassau proposal would come from "high-quality casino gaming," expected to comprise less than 10% of the total square footage, Sands officials said.

Reese declined to discuss the status of ongoing lease negotiations or whether Sands would apply for a gaming license on any other New York property.

Blakeman, a Republican who took office in January 2022, has declined to discuss the lease transfer or whether he supports the project. It was among the priorities outlined in his State of the County address in March.

Blakeman "has said from the beginning that the proposal must be world-class, with a luxury hotel and entertainment component, bring significant revenue to the county and surrounding areas including construction and permanent jobs, and have the support of the community, in order to move forward," said his spokesman, Christopher Boyle.

Any lease transfer or new land agreement between Nassau and Sands requires approval of the 19-member county legislature.

No legislator has taken a public position on the project. Republicans hold a 12-7 majority.

Hank Sheinkopf, a Manhattan-based consultant who has worked on Democratic campaigns, said the potential political headwinds are worth watching at the local and state levels.

Republicans could pay in countywide elections in November if they grant the lease to development that could inconvenience voters, he said.   

"But then if it doesn't happen, then the local Republicans can blame the Democrats in the state," he said.   

Of the state approval process, Sheinkopf added: "Why would the Democrats give Republicans scores and scores of jobs? Everything is partisan and everything is politics."

IDA board mandate … Dem primaries start Saturday … FeedMe: Outdoor dining Credit: Newsday

Updated 10 minutes ago Police: Man shot in Long Beach ... Great Neck synagogue garden ... Westbury public lewdness ... AED devices for youth

IDA board mandate … Dem primaries start Saturday … FeedMe: Outdoor dining Credit: Newsday

Updated 10 minutes ago Police: Man shot in Long Beach ... Great Neck synagogue garden ... Westbury public lewdness ... AED devices for youth

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