Monday August 25,2014 : ADELSON SHAPING UP FOR ANOTHER MAJOR CONFRONTATION
The clash with Disney is likely to be monumental.
Las Vegas Sands multi-billionaire owner Sheldon Adelson has been making headlines with his implacable opposition to online gambling in the United States, but he may face a more formidable foe to his company’s expansion in Florida.
The investment publication Motley Fool reports that the Walt Disney World Resort in Orlando is a cornerstone of Disney’s global operations, comprising more than 31 percent of the company’s revenue in 2013, and one of its most successful and fast-growing enterprises.
And it sees attempts by Adelson and others to introduce massive casino resorts into the region as threats, potentially diluting the massive flow of 18.6 million visitors it enjoyed in 2013.
Earlier this year Disney vigorously opposed legalization to allow casino expansion into Florida, led by Adelson’s company.
At present, state law in Florida allows for eight Native American casinos with Vegas-style gambling, and 31 pari-mutuel betting facilities. The threat to Disney is that LVS can offer a family-friendly, fully integrated resort that includes not just gambling, but many forms of non-gaming entertainment.
With theme park revenues alone of $14 billion last year, Disney’s clout outpaces even LVS, which reported total revenues of $13.77 billion in 2013.
The issue is being highlighted as the November election of the state’s next governor looms, with the main contenders Republican incumbent Rick Scott (known to have visited Adelson and to have ambitions beyond Florida) and Democrat Charlie Crist.
The two are embroiled in an at times vicious political competition for power as each seeks to demean the morals and business-development potential of the other, aided by competing state interests.
Both have been treading carefully around the gambling and casino issue, but the media and the voting public are becoming increasingly insistent that they are specific in their views, and the expectation is that they will have to nail their colours to the mast soon.
Given his relationship with Adelson and ambitions for the White House, Scott seems likely to back the LVS expansion into Florida. He has a record of claiming that gambling expansion can create more jobs and tax revenues for the state.
A study commissioned by Florida lawmakers in October last year showed that allowing full casino resorts could increase spending in Florida by $1.5 billion annually.
According to Bloomberg business news, Disney has contributed $1.7 million to Florida lawmakers since 2012, though gaming companies and interests combined have contributed $3.4 million.
That sort of money invariably gets the attention of lawmakers, and the indications are that Adelson could have a major fight on his hands with a formidable opponent in Disney.