Las Vegas Sands Urges Lawmakers to Let Destination Casinos 'Go Big' in Florida

By: Anne Smith | Posted: April 2, 2013 2:08 PM

Las Vegas Sands Marina Bay Sands - Sunshine State News

The Las Vegas Sands' Marina Bay Sands Resort in Singapore increased the country's tourism by 20% in one year.

A Las Vegas Sands Corp. representative told Florida lawmakers they should expand gaming in the state by providing incentives for destination-resort developers to “go big.”

Nick Iarossi, a lobbyist for the world’s largest destination-resort company, told the House Select Committee on Gaming Tuesday that they should create a tax rate that allows destination casinos to do it right – on a large scale.

“A lower tax obviously leads to increased capital investment and more job opportunities and more competition among bidders in deciding what to build, what type of iconic structure and amenities to build,” he said.

“What we would encourage this committee to look at, and the Legislature as a whole, is providing a tax rate that provides incentive to go big, to build an iconic structure that not just caters to locals or to regionals around Florida but will convince people to travel to Florida from out of state and out of country in order to see and visit and spend their money in the economy here.”

Billionaire Sheldon Adelson’s Sands operates “integrated resorts” that use a MICE model – meetings, incentives, conferences, exhibitions – that draws in conventions and trade shows that are vital to the success of the properties. Noncasino offerings make up two-thirds of Sands’ revenue in Las Vegas, Iarossi noted. Additionally, the square footage of the casino floors in the Sands’ Las Vegas properties is less than 1 percent of the total property, he told the committee.

Lawmakers were specifically interested in what the Sands would envision for Florida, but Iarossi said it would depend on the location, because they would “build to suit the area.” The Sands has scouted several cities, including Miami, Fort Lauderdale, Palm Beach and Tampa.

To give the members who are studying gaming an idea, he said the Sands’ Miami model included a range of 1,000 to 1,200 rooms. The casino representative said downtown Miami is seen as an ideal location because it has an international draw, it’s close to a major airport and it already has existing “critical mass” hotel infrastructure to support overflow during conventions and trade shows.

Rep. Matt Gaetz worried that the opposite effect could take place if a large-scale resort entered the Miami market. “One could easily make the argument if you inject 1,000 rooms in market … that it would have an effect on the other [existing] 9,000 rooms,” he said. “We’d have to know the economic model.”

Iarossi told the Fort Walton Beach Republican the company’s experience in other markets is that their resorts result in increased traffic for existing hotels because there are visitors who choose not to pay the resort’s premium price. But, he could not provide estimated room rates, because the Sands had not modeled room prices yet. In 2012, convention and trade show attendees occupied 746,000 room nights at the company's Las Vegas resorts -- The Venetian and The Palazzo.

Another necessity to spur development of high-end gambling in Florida, according to the Sands, is a strong regulatory environment. The group only operates in jurisdictions with a strict regulatory structure that “establish a firm set of regulations that allows us all to play by the same set of rules.” They also recommended the creation of a gaming commission.

Iarossi asserted that lawmakers need to look past some of the rhetoric from naysayers and look at real-life examples, pointing out that South Florida has the same amount of slot machines as the Las Vegas strip. “When slot machines were authorized in South Florida … the sky didn’t fall there.”

Anne Smith writes special to Sunshine State News. 


Comments (4)

maria diminno
12:47PM APR 8TH 2013
Is this why the senate is trying to get rid of Amusement Arcades for adults throughout Fl..I read that also SilverMark is interested in buying Hili in Miami and Fort Pierce, Mr Scott this is gambling!!!! Don't take away our Arcades that are our havens. Jobs are going to be lost,, strip malls empty, a higher unemployment rate and small entrepreneurs bankrupt. In 2012 Amusement Arcades employed 4788 employers.Currently Amusement Arcades are the 3rd largest employer only behind health care and education. They pay taxes to the state and keep communities in business, The gift cards they give out support local stores, beverage companies, waste management, lighting companies, and keep our strip malls working so that landlords don' go bankrupt, They help our young girls work their way thru college, mothers making ends meet, husbands supporting their families, and seniors supplement their income. They keep the elderly close together, that can afford this and feel as thou they have family. We don't need Big Casino's.. You say this is gamblin.Well what is the big casino? Is someone getting big bucks by doing this? Is not lottery, bingo, texas holden forms of gambling that we all enjoy. Why are the Republican party members being so stubborn. This is an election year and they are putting many people out of work, which will eliminate many, many Republican votes.
Donald Johnson
7:23AM APR 8TH 2013
Florida needs the $$$. This is a no brainer!!! This can and will bring in 10 fold the amount Mr. Charlie Christ somehow, hmmm... agreed on with the seminole tribe to operate 5 casinos in Florida. The money the state is getting for this 5 yr. pact is peanuts!!! compared to Sands, Harrahs, Mgm or any "american" gaming company being given a permit. Just the upfront $$ would blow it away, let alone the monthly payments and taxes the indians do not pay. You want the jails staffed properly? the teachers making what they deserve, and the proper class sizes? the laid off law officers and fireman that save lives to have jobs back??? what are you waiting for? Obamas health care plan? yea, that helps, lol.......Its proven, the crime rate does not go up! these grounds and areas are better protected than ever!. As a former Atlantic City resident, I'll tell you, the casinos mare awesome for tourism $$$$ and local jobs at a higher than minimum wage!!!! Jacksonville? the largest city in the U.S., why not?????? quit the bs. It's entertainment , for the vast elderly we have here. They are just not gambleing houses, they have many restaurants and something to do for these people. Some people working hard, or executive jobs need a escape and it doesn can not? why not a local resort?casino that can have world class golf and restaurants???why just Orlando with seaworld and Disney???? just 4 resort/casinos produces 20,000 job, not counting all the vendors they use and places, show, restaurants, piers, downtown, hotel rooms, the #'s are astounding. Open your eyes!!!
Barney T. Bishop III
6:26AM APR 3RD 2013
Nick and Las Vegas Sands are right...Florida needs to think really BIG...at a time when Floridians, Central and South Americans and also Europeans are willing to entertain themselves with gaming, drinking, top notch shows and the like, I can't understand why we wouldn't want this in SOuth Florida...the voters there have already voted for it so why should we deny them this critical economic opportunity?...the world-class architecture itself will be a draw to many...and the jobs will be many with good benefits and salaries...this is something that Florida should embrace and allow South Florida to grow to its full potential...and the visitors will only grow larger and the benefit to the state's coffers will be very helpful in this time of tight budget cycles!
Steve Norton
10:44PM APR 2ND 2013
I worked for Sheldon Adelson, as the President of his Las Vegas Sands, at the time we opened the Sands Expo Center. The hotel casino was way past its prime, but with the Comdex Trade Show, that Sheldon also owned, we proved that the convention trades were the answer to stagnant casino demand. At that time (1990-91) Las Vegas passed Chicago as the convention/ trade show capital of the United States, and we showed that room revenues could be as important as casino win in developing resort profitibality. Florida has several cities with strong convention demand, principally Miami Beach and Orlando, but neither comes close to the convention facilities or hotel rooms available in Las Vegas. Miami Beach appears to be afraid of the new hotel capacity that would accompany the introduction of major casino resorts in Miami, or they prefer that casinos be available for their own famous beach resorts, like the Fontainbleau. And Orlando, with a hint of opposition from the Disney organization, believe that casino gaming would be a poor compliment for a family resort. And the hotel occupancies and average room rates of these two major Florida destinations seem to indicate that they don't currently need casino gaming to be successful. However there are many other Florida resorts, with excellent airports, decent air routes, interstate highway access; but are missing adequate hotel demand. Of course most of these resorts lack the large population base of Miami-Ft. Lauderdale or Tampa-St. Petersburg, that make these two areas particularly desirable for a resort casino. Certainly not for a resort casino requiring a minimum investment of $2 billion. Perhaps Florida needs to check the resort health of the hospitality industry in communities like Ft. Myers, Daytona Beach or Pensacola, where the resort hotel and other hospitality entities might not agree with the Florida Restaurant Lodging Association, that is opposed to casino resorts for the State.

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