The worldwide casino company run by billionaire Boston native Sheldon Adelson will bypass the chance to build a casino in Massachusetts, saying the state’s plan to license up to three casinos and a slot parlor is going to dilute the market, according to a spokesman.
Adelson, who had spent nearly $500,000 lobbying lawmakers on the casino bill approved last November, is known for building lavish gambling resorts, some costing several billion dollars.
“With multiple facilities being proposed, it didn’t synch with our business model,’’ Ron Reese, a spokesman for Adelson’s company,
The confirmation that Adelson will skip the Bay State comes just two weeks after another Las Vegas casino developer, Steve Wynn, abandoned his plans to build a resort in Foxborough in the face of stiff local opposition. Wynn has given no indication he will choose another site in Massachusetts.
The absence of two industry giants, each with vast experience and deep pockets, could mean less competition for the Greater Boston casino license, potentially leading to lower bids or less ambitious projects, specialists say.
“When you have major corporations with all the wherewithal they have competing for one license - a prized license that the one for metropolitan Boston would be - I don’t think there is any question that each one would be coming out showing you something better,’’ said Frank Fantini, publisher of Fantini’s Gaming and Lodging Reports.
The state gambling commission will eventually solicit bids for up to one gambling resort in each of three regions of the state, and one slot parlor that could be built anywhere. The Greater Boston license, expected to be the most lucrative in the state, is being pursued by Suffolk Downs in East Boston in partnership with Caesars Entertainment. Suffolk Downs has said it will invest $1 billion in the development. Developer David Nunes, who has proposed a casino in Milford, has also pledged he will bid on the license but has not yet announced a financing partner.
The 78-year-old Adelson, raised in Dorchester, had been seen as a big unknown force in Greater Boston, a potential game-changing player with the know-how and financial resources to produce a top-flight bid - and to force other bidders to aim high.
Forbes pegs Adelson’s net worth at $24.9 billion, ranking him the world’s 14th-richest person. Adelson’s Venetian hotel is a top attraction for sightseers on the Las Vegas Strip, incorporating canals and gondolas, and an indoor shopping and dining plaza designed to recreate Venice at dusk. He has spent billions developing resorts in Macao, China, and Singapore, which have become huge gambling markets.
Back in 2007, as Massachusetts was giving serious consideration to legalizing casinos, Adelson expressed interest in developing a casino around Marlborough, near the intersection of the Mass. Pike and Interstate 495. But more recently he hinted he had lost interest in his native state. In a call with investors late last year, Adelson talked up the potential of Asian expansion and admitted he was less enthusiastic about emerging domestic markets, which he sees as far less lucrative.
Stephen Crosby, chairman of the Massachusetts Gaming Commission, said the panel is thinking carefully about how much casino gambling the Massachusetts market can handle. The commission will tackle the question at a forum it is hosting in June.
“One of the things we have to do is re-look at what the market could bear, and see what is the economic prognosis for the model in the legislation [three resorts and a slot parlor] in today’s environment,’’ said Crosby. “We’re going to reconvene all of the people who have done projections and we’re going to say, ‘What do you think of your projections now?’ I think the casino legislation gives us the room to think carefully about the competitive environment and the size of the market and to act accordingly.’’
In late February, Adelson terminated his Massachusetts lobbying firm, Donoghue Barrett & Singal, after spending more than $470,000 on lobbying in the Bay State from 2009 to 2011, according to records in Secretary of State William Galvin’s office.
Professor Clyde Barrow, a casino specialist at the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth, said Adelson has been consistent, having recommended five years ago that Massachusetts limit the state to one casino.
Since then, he said, Adelson has focused on markets overseas.
“A lot of Wall Street investors have criticized him for getting involved in Sands Bethlehem [a casino in Pennsylvania] even though it has been a profitable facility,’’ said Barrow. “The view has been, ‘Why are you wasting your time on something that small when you have all the stuff going on in Macao?’ ’’
Crosby declined to comment directly on Adelson’s decision not to pursue a casino in Massachusetts, or how the absence of Las Vegas Sands would affect competition. “Clearly, competition is good and competition from well-funded, stable, legitimate companies is the best kind,’’ he said. “But at this point we’re not in the business of commenting about who’s in and who’s out.’’