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Gaming Roundup: What Will Become of Las Vegas Sands Without Sheldon Adelson

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(AP Photo/John Locher, File)

This June 17, 2014 file photo shows the Sands Expo and Convention Center and The Palazzo in Las Vegas.

Questions abound for the gaming world just a month into an eventful winter. 

Sheldon Adelson died two weeks ago, which has people wondering what will become of his massive empire.

“For now, the company is going to move forward, basically, as is," said Howard Stutz, a longtime gaming reporter, who serves as executive editor of CDC Gaming Reports. 

Stutz said acting CEO/chairman Rob Goldstein was made the official CEO/chairman on Tuesday. He's been with the company since 1995. Patrick Dumont, who is married to Sheldon Adelson's step-daughter and was one of the first employees of the company, was made president and COO.

With that leadership in place and with Miriam Adelson holding the majority of stock in the company, Stutz doesn't believe there will be too many course-changes immediately.

In October, the company announced it might sell its Las Vegas holdings, including The Venetian, The Palazzo and the Las Vegas Sands Expo Center.

"Nothing has come of that since," Stutz said. "We don't know what that meant. Did that mean: Sell the whole thing and get out? Or were they talking about selling it to a real estate investment trust and then leasing it back?" he said.

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Stutz pointed to the Wynn Resorts as an example of how a casino company can move on when the person who created the empire is no longer there. 

In 2018, Steve Wynn was forced out of Wynn Resorts after a number of women accused him of sexual misconduct and harassment. 

"Wynn's departure was abrupt," he said. "It was within 10 days of the Wall Street Journal article, and within a month, he was gone, completely, from the company. And they moved forward."

Stutz said it took a little bit for leadership to get their footing, but now the Wynn name is the only thing left.

"It's Matt Maddox and his board, [and] Phil Satre, who is the chairman of Wynn Resorts - it's their company and they're moving forward with it," he said. 

The question for Las Vegas Sands is Miriam Adelson. Stutz said because she is majority owner, she will have to get a gaming license, but he's not sure if she'll take the now-open spot on the board of directors.

Outside of Las Vegas, gaming continues to expand in several states. Stutz said Virginia is about to allow more casinos to open; however, he is not concerned about casinos in other parts of the country becoming too much competition for Las Vegas.

For one thing, most of the revenue for resorts is non-gaming, which means people visit here for more than just slots and table games.

"They don't come here to gamble. They come here for everything else. They come here for the Vegas experience," he said. "I think as we move out of the pandemic, hopefully soon, that will still be the case."

Stutz said casinos can be replicated, but Las Vegas can't.

He also said expanded gaming in other states benefits Nevada companies because they're the ones operating those casinos.

With that said, Stutz believes the city has a rebuilding effort ahead of it once the pandemic is under control.

"This is going to be the challenge as we move out of the pandemic," he said. "It's completely different idea now, in a sense, because we're basically going to have to rebuild what we did here in Las Vegas."

Not in the sense of physical buildings, but in the sense of rebuilding the market, he explained.

The COVID-19 vaccines -- seen as the literal shot in the arm for the tourism and gaming industries -- are rolling out, albeit slowly.

Stutz said Governor Steve Sisolak wants to move casino employees up on the list of the first people to get the vaccine to help get the industry moving again.

He admits he's not an expert, but he believes it is legal under Nevada to require employees to get vaccinated.

"Under labor law in Nevada, any company can make this type of vaccine a requirement of employment," he said. "Now it's employees that are dealing directly with customers."

He said a back-of-the-house employee might not have to get one, but those up-front likely will. And casinos will be able to promote the fact that they have a vaccinated staff at the resort.

Stutz believes using currently empty convention spaces in Strip resorts as vaccination hubs could be a great move for casinos both as a way to get the vaccine into the arms of employees and as a public relations move.

 

Guests

Howard Stutz, executive editor, CDC Gaming Reports

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