The US casino industry could soon be without one of its most well-known and polarizing casino operators after Las Vegas Sands has confirmed it’s engaged in preliminary discussions to sell off its US casino assets. That according to CDC Gaming Reports.
The rumors of Las Vegas Sands shopping its remaining US casinos (valued at around $6 billion) began circulating earlier in the week. Due to the potential impact, the rumors quickly grabbed the attention of the entire gaming industry.
Las Vegas Sands spokesman Ron Reese said in an emailed statement to CDC Gaming Reports, “The company confirmed very early discussions have taken place, but nothing has been finalized.”
The departure of Las Vegas Sands and its CEO and chairman, Sheldon Adelson, would reverberate across the casino industry. Further, it would almost certainly change the dynamics of online gambling in the US, as Adelson has been the driving force behind the anti-online gambling movement in the US.
Adelson’s Influence With the AGA
Adelson is one of the most successful casino magnates of all-time, and his influence in the industry is second to none. I fully expect Adelson, one of the world’s wealthiest people, to continue to lobby against online gambling in some capacity, whether he’s operating in the US or not.
However, his anti-online gambling stance will lose some of its authority if he no longer has ties to the US gambling industry.
Perhaps most importantly, Adelson’s online gambling position would no longer cause a rift within the American Gaming Association (AGA). That would allow the organization to pursue the legalization of online casinos and online poker alongside online sports betting.
That’s something that has only happened for a brief period.
Unfortunately, that stance was relatively short-lived, as Sheldon Adelson and a few other AGA members were against online gambling. That rift in the AGA caused the organization to take the position of “no position” on online gambling, letting its members fight for and against individually at the state level.
The only other big name that opposed online gambling was Steve Wynn. Since he resigned from Wynn Entertainment in 2018, it has embraced online gambling, leaving Adelson as the lone powerful voice against online gambling.
Without the AGA’s unified voice, online casino and poker legislation has lagged other efforts like sports betting and daily fantasy sports even though online casino is the best revenue generator of the lot.
That said, Adelson’s actions have only slowed its progress. Like a soccer team that is always playing for the 0-0 tie, sometimes the other team scores despite your purely defensive efforts. As was the case in Pennsylvania, West Virginia, and Michigan.
Removing Adelson from the AGA should result in the organization fully supporting online casino and online poker efforts in the US. And that support should result in more positive results in state legislatures, as online casino and sports betting, in terms of revenue, work best in tandem.
Has Adelson Seen the Writing on the Wall?
As noted, Adelson is unlikely to remove online gambling from his sizable lobbying war chest. However, he’s also the opposite of a fool. Recent developments coupled with business decisions Adelson has made indicate that he may be starting to view an online gambling prohibition as a fool’s errand. Attempts to get Congress to rewrite the Wire Act have gone nowhere, and online gambling is widely available.
Following the passage of online gambling legislation in Pennsylvania, Las Vegas Sands quickly unloaded its Sands Bethlehem property. That could be a coincidence, but with online gambling spreading across the US, including some chatter about online casinos in Nevada, that would make two coincidences.
Adelson’s most significant success on this front was the Department of Justice’s 2018 Wire Act opinion.
Legal experts are pretty much in agreement that the Department of Justice’s current interpretation of the Wire Act as it pertains to online gambling (widely believed to have been proposed and pushed for by Adelson) is doomed to failure as it travels through the courts.
Not to mention, that case could become moot depending on what happens Tuesday, as a Biden administration is unlikely to continue to fight for Adelson’s pet issue.
The big question is, does Adelson continue to lobby for online prohibitions if he no longer possesses US gambling interests? And if the answer is yes, how much money will he want to commit to stopping or slowing down what looks like a runaway train, particularly with the AGA unburdened from Sheldon Adelson and Steve Wynn.