LAS VEGAS -- Las Vegas Sands Corp. has unveiled a multimillion-dollar global philanthropic effort that signifies the gaming company’s presence internationally and aims to address needs in the casino operator’s home communities.
The initial efforts of the corporate citizenship program, Sands Cares, are twofold.
Las Vegas Sands is contributing $7 million to the University of Nevada, Las Vegas William F. Harrah College of Hotel Administration to help fund a new building for the school.
A portion of the donation, which spans five years, will be used to create a global professional and executive education program at the college.
Las Vegas Sands also donated $1 million to Clean the World, an international nonprofit that turns discarded soap and shampoo products into personal hygiene items for use in impoverished countries. The company has been working with Clean the World since 2011 and has diverted 52 tons of waste products into 367,000 bars of recycled soap.
The $1 million donation was the single-largest ever corporate gift to Clean the World, which was founded in 2009 and is based in Orlando, Fla.
Las Vegas Sands President Michael Leven said the company’s philanthropic efforts have centered around personal contributions made by Chairman and CEO Sheldon Adelson and his wife, Miriam.
Sheldon Adelson, 80, is considered the world’s eighth richest person by Forbes, with a net worth of $39.8 billion. He has donated millions of dollars through the Adelson Family Foundation.
Leven said the creation of Sands Cares allows the focus to be on Las Vegas Sands “rather than our chairman.”
‘MUCH BETTER PLACE’
Leven added that the casino company, which owns The Venetian and Palazzo on the Strip and hotel-casinos in Macau, Singapore and Bethlehem, Pa., “is in a much better place financially” than it was five years ago.
“We need to take our place globally as a company,” Leven said. “In my view, we really haven’t been good enough at this type of stuff in the past.”
Leven said the corporate citizenship effort gives Las Vegas Sands global recognition beyond its balance sheet. The company has a gaming industry-leading market capitalization of more than $67 billion.
“It speaks to the employees that we have a global perspective,” Leven said. “We have to take our rightful place. I think we want to be recognized globally in terms of civic responsibility. That goes with the territory.”
Las Vegas Sands made smaller donations over the years to charities, and that effort will continue, Leven said. The idea, however, was to create a major gift program.
“We wanted to make an impact,” Leven said.
At UNLV, the hotel college hopes to break ground on a new building in 2015 with an opening in 2017. Stowe Shoemaker, the hotel administration college’s dean, said the Legislature appropriated $30 million toward construction and UNLV is seeking to raise another $20 million.
He said the Center for International Hospitality and Gaming Education, which is being created through the Las Vegas Sands donation, will provide a modern professional development program that can train future hotel-casino industry executives to work in Las Vegas and worldwide.
Shoemaker said 25 percent of the hotel school’s students come from Asia.
“There is a huge need for professional development in the industry,” Shoemaker said. “This program allows UNLV to create a truly global classroom to educate future executives in the art and science of hospitality.”
Clean the World has an office in Las Vegas. Venetian and Palazzo employees volunteer time to build thousands of hygiene kits to be used in homeless shelters and other resource centers in Las Vegas.
The company has earmarked 100,000 hygiene kits for disaster relief efforts around the world. Las Vegas Sands employees will travel to international destinations to hand out the kits and provide hygiene education.
Leven said the work with Clean the World will touch people “who will probably never stay at one of our properties.” But the work might encourage other corporate donations to Clean the World.
Clean the World co-founder Shawn Seipler said the donation showed a “willingness to step beyond the normal product recycling partnership” and “a deep commitment to this cause.”
Las Vegas Sands made a financial donation to Clean the World last year in 2013 after a typhoon and tsunami struck the Philippines. Leven said company employees of Philippine descent heard about the contribution and thanked management for the effort.
But the company didn’t want to wait for the next disaster. That was a key reasoning behind Sands Cares.
“It’s easier for companies to respond in emergencies. Write the check and away it goes,” Leven said. “What we wanted was a planned program where we don’t have to wait for emergency. We’re going to do this as part of our budget process.”
In 2010, Las Vegas Sands unveiled a companywide sustainable business program that turned the entire 17.9 million-square-foot Venetian, Palazzo and Sands Expo and Convention Center complex into the world’s largest Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design-certified building by the U.S. Green Building Council.
But green efforts, Leven said, come with a financial savings.
A philanthropic endeavor “shows the company is being a good corporate citizen.”
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