Politics

Las Vegas Sands Gives $17M to Florida Committee Focused on Gaming Matters

Las Vegas Sands is continuing to focus its lobbying efforts on states that have long prohibited commercial casino operators. 

Las Vegas Sands President Rob Goldstein, pictured above, succeeded his mentor Sheldon Adelson following the late mogul’s death earlier this year. Though Sands is unloading its Strip casinos in Nevada, the company is focused on new state commercial markets. (Image: AP)

After spending $20 million in Texas to convince state lawmakers to legalize resort-style casinos, an effort that turned out unfruitful during the 2021 legislative session, Sands is now directing its energy on Florida. 

The Seminole Tribe has long held a monopoly on slot machines and table games throughout most of the state. The exception is in Miami-Dade and Broward counties, where slot machines are legal at pari-mutuel racinos.

Sands is supporting a newly formed political action committee (PAC) called Florida Voters in Charge. According to the PAC’s most recent campaign finance disclosures made with the Florida Division of Elections, Sands on June 28 cut a check for $17,064,000 to the group.

If “Voters in Charge” sounds familiar, it’s because a group by that name — sans the Florida prefix — has been lobbying in the state since 2015. In 2018, Voters in Charge successfully led the Amendment 3 campaign to strip state lawmakers of their power regarding casinos. The ballot referendum requires that state voters — not politicians — have the “exclusive right to decide whether to authorize casino gambling.” 

Sands Motive Unclear

In March, Las Vegas Sands announced its plans to sell both of its Strip resorts for $6.25 billion. Once the deal to Apollo Global Management and VICI Properties is completed, Sands will no longer have a domestic casino.

The proceeds from the sale are expected to be used by Sands to further its investments in Asia, including in China’s Macau and Singapore. But Sands, a longtime opponent to online gambling while under the reign of its late founder, chairman, and CEO Sheldon Adelson, announced this week that it’s ready to enter the digital space.

Florida Voters in Charge, a separate PAC from Voters in Charge, is staying vague on its political motives. 

Our initial donor, the Las Vegas Sands Corporation, has long been interested in Florida, and we look forward to sharing more about the Florida Voters in Charge effort in the coming weeks and months,” the PAC said in a statement.

Lobbying Wars

Along with Voters in Charge and Florida Voters in Charge, there are yet two more recently formed PACs that are honed in on gaming matters. 

Voters in Control received a $10 million contribution from the Seminole Tribe on June 30. Voters in Control is set to defend opposition to Florida’s recently reached new Class III gaming compact with the Seminole Tribe. That compact allows its casinos to operate sports betting, both in-person and online. Critics say Amendment 3 prohibits state lawmakers and Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) from legalizing such new forms of gaming. 

Finally, Florida Education Champions, also a new PAC, said it recently received $10 million each from FanDuel and DraftKings. That committee says the state should allow sportsbooks at professional sports stadiums, as well as at pari-mutuel racinos statewide.  

One of the more complex gaming states as it relates to both federal and state laws, the odds are strong that Florida’s gaming industry will remain in a state of flux for the time being. 

Devin O'Connor

Gaming Legislation, Politics, Casino Business, Entertainment----Devin O’Connor’s passion for politics and background in the world of pop culture television give him insight into the gaming industry backstories that often drive news these days. After graduating from Penn State University with a theater arts degree, he worked at MTV Networks/Viacom from 2005 to 2010 as a writer and producer, where his credits included Total Request Live, New Year's Eve specials, and a special featuring poker superstar Daniel Negreanu. He later moved on to the HGTV/DIY Network, where he created, wrote, and produced three series specials: That's So House Hunters, That's So 80s, and That's So 90s. Devin came on board with Casino.org in 2014. He lives in Pennsylvania, and is an avid marathoner, having completed 15 races to date. Email: devin.oconnor@casino.org

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Devin O'Connor