Las Vegas Sun

November 18, 2018

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Venetian calls for end to LVCVA

Executives of the Venetian hotel-casino say the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority has outlived its usefulness and are calling for its elimination.

William Weidner, president and chief operating officer of Las Vegas Sands Inc., owner of the Venetian and the Sands Expo Center, issued a statement Thursday saying the LVCVA duplicates the marketing efforts of the city's megaresorts.

LVCVA President Manny Cortez declined comment because the agency is embroiled in a lawsuit with Las Vegas Sands over the financing of a proposed $150 million convention center expansion.

But an LVCVA spokesman unloaded on the Venetian executive with both barrels.

"Given the performance of the Venetian since the day it allegedly opened, I think taking marketing advice from any of their officials would be like taking navigational lessons from the captain of the Titanic," Rob Powers said.

Weidner said the time has come to disband the LVCVA because pressures are increasing to allocate tax revenues to other needs. His letter noted that education, traffic congestion, and increasing crime and drug abuse are demanding greater financial resources.

He noted Sen. Joe Neal, D-North Las Vegas, wants to increase taxes on gaming and the Nevada Teachers' Association is petitioning for a business tax to raise money for schools. Weidner sees the nearly $100 million a year collected in room taxes that goes to the LVCVA as a potential revenue source.

Weidner names three things the LVCVA does that duplicate efforts by existing resorts: providing convention space, marketing the city to the world and sponsoring special events that bring additional visitors to the city.

"At the bottom line, there are two important facts," Weidner's letter says. "One, the LVCVA does not spend its room tax dollars efficiently and responsibly. Two, the majority of the expenditures of the LVCVA are duplicative of work already accomplished at a higher level by existing megaresorts.

"The development of multibillion-dollar Las Vegas destination resorts has been the real driving force behind the increase in visitations to Las Vegas. These must-see, all-encompassing, unique world-class destinations have obviated the need for many functions that the LVCVA now performs and it is no longer needed for Las Vegas to accomplish the intent of the authority's original purpose."

Powers responded that the LVCVA is the only agency that markets the entire city and not individual properties. He added that the LVCVA also is responsible for marketing destinations and events in Laughlin, Primm, Mesquite and Jean.

"Their argument totally disregards the outlying areas we are responsible for," Powers said. "It also totally disregards the motel properties in Las Vegas that don't have significant marketing budgets."

In an interview Thursday, Weidner said it isn't the LVCVA's responsibility to play Robin Hood -- taking most of its tax revenues from the larger, richer properties and redistributing it to the smaller, poorer ones.

"It's the megaresorts that drive the economy here, not the LVCVA," Weidner said. "Some people come here and stay off the Strip or in smaller properties, but they come to see the pirate show and they come to see the water display at the Bellagio, not the small motels."

He called the LVCVA's convention business "cannibalistic" and said the only reason other resort properties haven't adopted the Venetian's point of view is that they don't have convention centers that suffer at the hands of the LVCVA the way the Sands Expo Center does.

Weidner said the Venetian probably will kick in about $16 million in room taxes to the LVCVA in a year, but doesn't get an equitable return on the investment.

"Decisions are being made that are not subject to market discipline," Weidner said. "I don't think taxpayers would vote to spend money on the things the LVCVA is voting to support."

Powers disagrees.

"I think if we were doing things the properties didn't want we'd hear about it," he said.

The agency has won a number of awards from tourism marketing organizations and associations. In 1998, the LVCVA was honored in the World Travel Awards as the No. 1 convention and visitors bureau in North America and the world by thousands of travel industry professionals who voted.

"We're not disputing that they've had a good run," Weidner said. "They've had a good 40 years, but there have been some dramatic changes in Las Vegas since 1955. There have been some terrific baseball and football players since then too, but they all know when it's time to retire. And that's what we're saying ... for the LVCVA, it's time to retire."

"It's the same laundry list of nonsense they've been spouting for months," Powers said. "If Mr. (Sheldon) Adelson (chief executive officer) or Mr. Weidner or Mr. (David) Friedman (the Venetian's general counsel) want to work with people rather than try to destroy them, they may find this to be a pretty good town in which to do business.

"We have a good relationship and the support of virtually everyone in the resort industry except Mr. Adelson," Powers said. "I find it incredible that they have the time and the energy to be attacking us when they still have to finish their property and they've been bleeding red ink."

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