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Richard N. Velotta
 

Sands COO: Casino Marketing Should Be Left to the Resorts

27 June 2005



SINGAPORE -- The company that owns the Venetian went to the other side of the world to slam the LVCVA.

Casino industry observers in Southern Nevada are well acquainted with the rocky relationship between Las Vegas Sands Inc. and the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority.

Attendees of the 10th annual Asian Casino Expo got a taste of that lack of rapport last week when Las Vegas Sands President and Chief Operating Officer William Weidner criticized the LVCVA's marketing of the city and management of the Las Vegas Convention Center during a panel discussion that included four gaming experts from around the world.

Asked about marketing resorts and how they work with local tourism entities, Weidner said marketing should be left in the hands of the companies that invest millions of dollars in their properties and not meddled with by tax-supported tourism and convention bureaus such as the LVCVA.

"I'm a free-market capitalist kind of guy and believe that we can do a better job of marketing the resort than a bunch of politicians," Weidner said.

Weidner said room tax revenue collected by the LVCVA is "inefficiently spent" and that Las Vegas sells itself because of what the resort owners do -- not because of a catchy slogan, a reference to the LVCVA's "What happens here, stays here" campaign.

Weidner also said the Convention Center is inefficiently run and that it's unfair that the LVCVA collects room taxes that are spent to undercut the privately operated convention centers in the city -- such as the one owned by his company, the Sands.

Weidner's American colleagues said they were surprised that he aired his criticisms of the LVCVA in the ACE venue.

"They have a different way of doing things," said Richard Mirman, senior vice president of business development for Harrah's Entertainment Inc.

Panel moderator Jonathan Galaviz, a gaming and airlines analyst for Galaviz Ong & Co. Ltd. in Las Vegas, noted that the companies that win approval from Singapore to develop integrated resorts would likely have to work with tourism marketing professionals from that country.

The panelists also weighed in on problem gambling issues, with Weidner explaining how key personnel with his company are sent to Harvard University for training by Howard Schaffer, an expert in addictive behavior.

Mirman said Harrah's was one of the leaders in battling problem gambling in the United States and that messages offering informational resources are provided to players by the company in all marketing and collateral materials.

Weidner noted that approaching problem gambling issues in Asia probably would be done differently than it is in the United States because of cultural differences of the players.

He said problem gambling intervention in Macau, for example, could be misinterpreted and result in the player "just picking up and going across the street."