New Las Vegas Sands CEO says company considering iGaming and digital opportunities

New Las Vegas Sands CEO says company considering iGaming and digital opportunities

  • Howard Stutz, CDC Gaming Reports
January 28, 2021 1:48 PM
  • Howard Stutz, CDC Gaming Reports
  • Other

It didn’t take long for new Las Vegas Sands Chairman and CEO Rob Goldstein to put his stamp on the casino conglomerate.

He told analysts Wednesday Las Vegas Sands was exploring the potential of entering the sports betting, digital, and iGaming marketplace – an area of the gaming industry in which his predecessor, the late Sheldon Adelson, spent millions of dollars in an effort to quash.

Goldstein said Adelson had ethical concerns about online gaming and how to police it against younger age players.

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Las Vegas Sands Chairman and CEO Rob Goldstein

“He never questioned its viability,” Goldstein said during the company’s fourth-quarter conference call. Goldstein said company officials were looking at all aspects surrounded digital gaming opportunities, but there was nothing to report.

“I have very strong thoughts about this,” Goldstein said. “We just want to keep working toward our goals. It’s a very interesting business. The question is can we bring something to the table that can make a lot of money.”

Much of the quarterly conference call focused on the company’s recovery in Macau, where the market as a whole saw its worst gaming revenue performance since 2006 as the region dealt with the fallout from the coronavirus pandemic.

Goldstein said he thought Las Vegas has its best days ahead despite the company’s two Strip resorts reporting a negative cash flow of $124 million in 2020. Total revenues for the Venetian and Palazzo dropped nearly 60% to $738 million.

“The customer demand for Las Vegas from 2022 to 2027 is unbelievable,” Goldstein said. “It may take significant time to recover, but the demand will be there. We remain bullish on Las Vegas.”

For Las Vegas Sands, COVID-19 sent the casino company to its worst-ever single-year financial performance, reporting a net loss of $1.69 billion in 2020 after watching its entire portfolio close or have visitation disrupted for lengthy periods during the year.

Total revenues for 2020 declined almost 74% to $3.61 billion. In 2019, Las Vegas Sands’ net revenues topped $13.739 billion.

But Goldstein, overseeing his first quarterly conference call after being named chairman and CEO nearly 24 hours earlier, sounded a note of optimism on the eventual recovery of travel and tourism across Las Vegas Sands’ operating markets in Las Vegas, Macau, and Singapore. He said the company had an unrestricted cash balance of more than $2.1 billion at the end of December.

“We are fortunate that our financial strength supports our previously announced capital expenditure programs in both Macau and Singapore, as well as our pursuit of growth opportunities in new markets,” Goldstein said.

Goldstein replaced his “great mentor and great friend” for more than two decades. Adelson, the 87-year-old billionaire and company founder, died on Jan. 11 from complications related to treatment for non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma. Adelson was the only chairman and CEO in Las Vegas Sands history.

Goldstein said at the outset of the conference call, “the last two weeks have been the most difficult in our company’s history.”

Goldstein called Adelson “irreplaceable” as the company’s visionary founder.

“The DNA of the company that Sheldon founded will remain ever-present,” Goldstein said. “The company, with the full and wholehearted support of the board and the family, will continue to honor Sheldon’s vision and protect and build upon his legacy.”

Fourth-quarter results

In the three months that ended Dec. 31, the company said its net revenues declined 68.4% to $150 million at the Venetian and Palazzo in Las Vegas, 69.7% to $669 million at the company’s Macau properties, and 59.6% to $345 million at the Marina Bay Sands in Singapore.

Total revenue in the quarter of almost $1.15 billion was a decline of 67.3%.

Growth initiatives

During the question and answered session with analysts, Goldstein confirmed the company is exploring potential growth opportunities in New York City, where lawmakers are being pushed to move up the timeline on potentially awarding an integrated resort license for Manhattan ahead of voter mandated 2023 start date.

“We’ve been looking at New York City for what, 100 years. It’s an extraordinarily good opportunity for anybody,” Goldstein said.

The company is also focused on Texas, where it is anticipated state lawmakers may consider casino development legislation during the upcoming legislative session. Texas media has reported the company has built up a high-powered lobbying team to push the issue.

“We’re deep in the hunt, but there is a long way to go,” Goldstein said.

Macau, Singapore, and Asia

Goldstein said Adelson was a believer in “a strong, healthy and cordial U.S.-China relationship,” which would benefit both countries by maintaining a good bilateral relationship, based on mutual respect.

“The company, the board and the family are absolutely committed to continuing Sheldon’s efforts in this regard,” Goldstein said.

In Macau, Las Vegas Sands is opening the first phase of The Londoner Macau on Feb. 8, part of a $2.2 billion renovation of the Sands Cotai Central. In total, Goldstein said Sands has invested $15 billion during Adelson’s tenure.

“Sands China is well-positioned to capture the rebound in tourism when the pandemic finally subsides, Goldstein said. “There is simply no better market for our company to invest in than Macau.”

Several questions concerned Macau’s relicensing process. The current concessions expire in 17 months and the government has not yet provided a direction or details. Sands China President Wilfred Wong said officials have been preoccupied by the pandemic.

“We’re coming up on a tight timetable,” Wong said.

Las Vegas Sands is also moving forward on a $3.3 billion expansion to the Marina Bay Sands in Singapore.

Goldstein said the company achieved positive cash flow in Macau and Singapore during the quarter.

“There is no doubt in my mind that our business will rebound to pre-COVID levels,” Goldstein said.

Shares of Las Vegas closed at $49.04 Wednesday on the New York Stock Exchange, down $3.38 or 6.45%.

Howard Stutz is the executive editor of CDC Gaming Reports. He can be reached at hstutz@cdcgaming.com. Follow @howardstutz on Twitter.