Churchill Downs one potential suitor for Sands properties in Vegas

Aerial view of the Las Vegas stripAt the end of October, Las Vegas Sands (LVS) acknowledged rumors that it was considering offloading its properties on the Las Vegas Strip. The news came as a surprise to many, considering the multibillion-dollar pockets of its founder and chairman, Sheldon Adelson, and the fact that it had previously been seen as a relatively robust company during the COVID-19 debacle. However, LVS isn’t as strong as some had thought and reported losses of around $1.73 billion across the second and third quarters of the year. Now that the fire sale has been confirmed, industry analysts have begun weighing in on which entities might be at the top of the list to purchase the properties.

Chad Beynon of Macquarie Group Limited believes that Churchill Downs Inc., Galaxy Entertainment and Tilman Fertitta are top contenders for the Venetian, Palazzo and Sands Expo and Convention Center. Galaxy just reported strong earnings for the third quarter of the year, which could give it some breathing room, and Fertitta, owner of the Golden Nugget and the NBA’s Houston Rockets, always has his eye on new assets he can add to his portfolio. Churchill Downs may be a surprise entry on the list, but it also just reported outstanding profit, and being able to capture new casino properties at a bargain would be appealing to any company with the ability to complete the transaction.

Beynon also believes that Crown Resorts could try to throw its name in the hat. However, this is not very likely in the current environment. The Australian casino operator is under extreme pressure back home, and that could cause issues should it decide to try to make a case for its capabilities in Las Vegas, at least until it emerges from the ongoing drama. It’s hard to imagine gaming regulators in Nevada agreeing to approve a company that has been allegedly tied to money laundering and war criminals.

Even without Crown, there is enough interest, and enough money, to make LVS able to reach a deal soon. It is hoping to pick up around $6 billion by selling the properties, and Beynon adds, “Buying Venetian and Palazzo, that’s not just buying a property on the Strip, that’s buying a convention business. The buyers that were looking at Caesars, they’re probably the same ones that would at least look at this. Tilman Fertitta was interested in Caesars, so I certainly think he’d be interested. On paper, it seems like that could work.”

The fact that LVS would be considering a sale now can only be seen as an effort to find a quick money-grab. The casino and convention markets, the two largest revenue generators for Las Vegas, are in a definite recession, and the only way to unload the properties now would be by offering them at reduced prices. Matthew Jacob, an industry analyst with M Science, appears to agree and asserts, “It’s surprising to me that Las Vegas Sands would talk about selling those properties now given that results are so depressed due to COVID-19. You would think that would potentially impact what they could sell it for. If they waited six months or a year, that might offer a better idea of what’s going to happen with the Las Vegas market in general.”

LVS has already indicated that it is actively working on arrangements to sell the properties, but hasn’t elaborated on any deals. However, with so much interest, it’s possible that something may be worked out before the end of the year.

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