Years late to the party and with a long prior history of being antagonistic to the segment, Las Vegas Sands Corporation has reportedly abandoned its nascent efforts to carve out a niche in the legalized online-gambling space. News of the re-reversal of LVSands’ corporate plans regarding online gambling arrived via a Nevada Independent report published yesterday by veteran gaming-beat writer Howard Stutz.
The Nevada Indy take discloses how Las Vegas Sands, which also operates the Venetian and Palazzo casinos in Las Vegas, had begun online-gambling initiatives less than 18 months ago, only a few months after the death of its former CEO, Sheldon Adelson, a strident online-gambling opponent. Signs of the company’s faltering move toward legalized online gambling may have begun to emerge in December, when gaming-investment newsletter Earnings and More reported that Davis Catlin and David Williams, who had been brought on by Sands to lead its new digital-gaming efforts, had departed to found their own independent company.
The news of Catlin’s and WIlliams’s departure was followed by an Eilers & Krajcik newsletter update disclosing that Las Vegas Sands had pulled out of numerous partnerships that had been designed to carve out a toehold in the digital space, providing a more collective view of Sands’ withdrawal from online-focused efforts and a retrenching, if by default, of its traditional focus on live-casino gaming. Including one online sportsbook project now seemingly abandoned, Las Vegas Sands may have sunk as much as $50 million into the failed effort.
Effect of Adelson’s legacy unmeasured
The extent to which Sheldon Adelson’s efforts to destroy legalized online-gambling remain unclear, though that some lingering effect existed is a certainty. Adelson, as chairman and CEO of LVSands, spent tens of millions of dollars on political efforts nationwide over more than a decade in an attempt to cripple online gambling’s legalization, growth, and acceptance.
Adelson also played a pivotal role in neutralizing the American Gaming Association’s potential role in lobbying on behalf of online-gambling initiatives. Las Vegas Sands Corp. was the AGA’s single largest benefactor, and Adelson’s threat to pull his company out of the casino-entertainment lobbying growth cost online gambling an important voice in several federal and state efforts.
Trying to rewrite that long anti-online legacy was always going to be an expensive and difficult process, with few wide-open paths available toward the company becoming a significant online player. Las Vegas Sands could always find startup partners as long as it was willing to foot the bill, but translating that into live products and capturing market share always involved overcoming an element of distrust from both other segments of the online industry and from the public at large, given Las Vegas Sands’ prior history.
It’s also unknown how strongly the late Adelson’s anti-online-gambling beliefs were held dear by remaining Sands executives and board members. Such latent anti-online sentiment could have re-strengthened as investment costs became more clear, and if such costs exceeded initial projections. What remains to be seen is whether Las Vegas Sands will fully revert to its prior anti-online stance. Under Adelson, the company actively worked to damage its competitors in the online space via its political and legal spending. Adelson also refused to accept research showing that online gambling was largely complimentary to live casino gambling, rather than cannibalizing casino profits.
Featured image source: Venetian