Las Vegas Sun

August 21, 2014

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BIZ BUZZ:

Jeff Simpson takes a look at the intense and pricey battle for casino licenses in some other states and across the ocean

Battles for limited casino licenses are high-stakes propositions.

Depending on tax rates, population and the amount of nearby competition, intense competition for the licenses can make sense.

For example, Macau license winners have been greatly enriched, while losers have had to pay hundreds of millions to license holders for subconcessions to gain entry or stay on the outside looking in at the world’s most lucrative market.

We’ve seen domestic battles in Detroit, Pennsylvania and Missouri as well as tough overseas competition in Singapore.

With Massachusetts deciding whether to allow two or three casinos as a way to reduce a state budget deficit and to limit the outflow of gambling money to Connecticut tribal casinos and Rhode Island video lottery terminals, a battle among at least three Las Vegas gaming companies for Bay State licenses is looking likely.

Interestingly, all three Las Vegas operators have Massachusetts connections.

Las Vegas Sands Corp. Chairman Sheldon Adelson, who grew up in Dorchester, Mass., and Harrah’s Entertainment Chairman Gary Loveman, a former Harvard Business School professor who still lives in Massachusetts, appeared at a December hearing to support Gov. Deval Patrick’s call for casinos.

And Wynn Resorts Chairman Steve Wynn told me two weeks ago that he’d be interested in taking the Wynn brand to the Boston area.

Wynn said his parents are both from Revere, Mass., and that he spent a lot of his youth there, near the ocean just north of Boston.

“We’ll see what the governor does,” Wynn said. “I’m interested, depending on what the tax rate will be and what the business will be. I think the Wynn brand would work well on a resort near the water.”

Without irony, the resort developer, whose vision suffers from the deteriorating effects of retinitis pigmentosa, said he’d be right at home in Revere.

“I could find my way around there blindfolded,” Wynn said.

• • •

For those in the Las Vegas business community who want to keep more of our brightest youngsters here when they grow up, and for those who want to diversify our economy by attracting high-technology and other jobs, there was some bad news last week.

UNLV officials announced plans to double in-state tuition by the 2010-11 school year at the Boyd School of Law.

Doubling law school tuition that fast is ludicrous, even in a time of budget shortfalls.

Tuition is being raised across the university system, while a system report said the amount of financial aid given to students dropped from $299 million in 2005-06 to $292 million in the school year that ended in mid-2007.

Quality higher education is a critical lure to keep our best high school graduates in Nevada. Top-notch businesses won’t want to relocate or invest here if we offer second-rate colleges with tuition rising at ridiculous rates.

Unfortunately, higher education isn’t the only state budget priority with big needs.

The state’s transportation, child welfare and K-12 education programs also desperately need money, and fast.

With a shaky economy and our state budget shortfall already threatening cash-strapped budgets, business leaders need to come together and support a broad-based business tax.

With our governor and his no-new-taxes mantra, it seems clear that the leadership necessary to tackle these threats won’t come from outside the business community.

The leadership needs to come from business itself.

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