Miriam Adelson speaks on stage during the 24th annual Keep Memory Alive benefit for the Cleveland Clinic Lou Ruvo Center for Brain Health at the MGM Grand Garden Arena on March 7, 2020 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Denise Truscello/Getty Images for Keep Memory Alive)
Denise Truscello | Getty Images
News that Miriam Adelson and her family would sell $2 billion The Las Vegas Sand shares to purchase a majority stake in the NBA's Dallas Mavericks stunned both the sports and gambling worlds.
After all, Las Vegas is the headquarters of the family empire, even if there are no casino resorts left in the city. Adelson is the widow of Las Vegas Sands founder Sheldon Adelson, who died in January 2021.
And Las Vegas is now a prime destination for sports, with the NHL's Golden Knights, the NFL's Raiders, the WNBA's Aces and a Formula 1 Grand Prix. Soon, Major League Baseball's As is expected to move to the desert from Oakland.
Likewise, NBA commissioner Adam Silver has suggested it's a matter of when, not if, Vegas gets a team. LeBron James has said he is interested in bringing basketball to Vegas one day. Retired NBA legend and former Sacramento Kings minority owner Shaquille O'Neal has also expressed interest in a Vegas team. The city will also host the final games of the NBA's midseason tournament.
An NBA team in Vegas could have a price tag of between $6 billion and $7 billion, said Patrick Rishe, director of the sports business program at Washington University in St. Louis.
So why is Adelson and her family throwing billions at a team in Dallas?
In a statement to CNBC, they said: “The Adelson and Dumont families are honored to have the opportunity to be stewards of this great franchise. Through our commitment and additional investments in the team, we look forward to working with Mark Cuban to continue to build on the team's success and legacy in Dallas and beyond.”
Patrick Dumont is married to Miriam Adelson's daughter, Sivan. He is also the president and chief operating officer of Las Vegas Sands.
The Adelsons have already invested millions in political contributions and lobbying in Texas, trying to persuade lawmakers to more broadly legalize gambling in the state. Las Vegas Sands itself has also spent years and millions of dollars pursuing the same goal.
The company sold the Venetian, Palazzo and the Venetian Expo center to affiliates of Apollo Global Management and VICI Properties in early 2022, raising more than $6 billion. The company has said it plans to use that capital to obtain gaming licenses elsewhere.
Late last year, Mavericks owner Cuban said he was interested in partnering with Sands to build a project that would include a new arena and casino resort if the state were to legalize gambling more broadly.
A detailed view of the Dallas Mavericks logo on the court during the fourth quarter of Game Four of the 2022 NBA Playoffs Western Conference Finals between the Golden State Warriors and the Dallas Mavericks at the American Airlines Center on May 24, 2022 in Dallas, Texas.
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That didn't happen, and the campaign is still in limbo. State lawmakers have been unable to advance legislation that would bring this to Texas voters as an option on the ballot. They are unlikely to try again until the 2025 legislative session.
“If you think of all the places you want to save up for a vacation, Texas isn't one of them,” Cuban said earlier this month, according to The Dallas Morning News. “There's no real destination you're saving for. That's a problem and I think resort gaming would have a huge impact.”
Owning a team in Dallas will strengthen the Adelsons' ties to Texas. They could potentially gain both a carrot and a stick to gain local support for a casino license by exerting power and influence over the future of the Mavericks. A company insider told CNBC that it's just smart to strengthen ties with the community.
It's a similar strategy that Las Vegas Sands has deployed to secure one of three new casino licenses to be awarded in New York.
The company has invested millions of dollars and lobbied for years to win over government and community leaders in Long Island's Nassau County. And the company has committed to redeveloping the Nassau Coliseum into a mixed-use resort regardless of whether it receives a permit. But the size of its investment would likely depend on whether it can offer casino gambling.
Adelson will benefit immensely if the bets on possible casino licenses in New York and Texas pay off. She and her family will continue to own more than 50% of the shares in Las Vegas Sands.
There's still a good chance the Mavericks investment could be profitable for the Adelsons, even without a Texas gambling operation.
“It's a very smart family, and sports assets have performed tremendously,” said Jason Ader, a former Las Vegas Sands board member and head of SpringOwl Asset Management. “NBA teams are marquee assets that will likely continue to appreciate.”
Cuban bought his stake in the Mavericks in 2000 for $285 million. Forbes recently valued the team at $4.5 billion, the seventh highest value in the NBA. The team won the NBA title in 2011. It currently consists of superstars Luka Doncic and Kyrie Irving.
CNBC has reached out to Cuban for comment. The NBA has made no comment and the Mavericks referred questions to the Adelsons.
–CNBCs Jessica Golden contributed to this article.