Las Vegas Sands: Keep unions out of donated land

Jul 4, 2011 7:34 PM

Las Vegas Sands Corp. (LVS) has a successful casino operating on the site of the former Bethlehem Steel plant in Pennsylvania and wants to insure that its philanthropy is not turned against it.

The company has agreed to donate land it owns adjacent to its casino property to the community to be used as a town square. But, the deed to the property comes with restrictions that have generated a major controversy.

The deed bans union organizing and any activity whose themes are "offensive" to the operators of the casino.

Involved is a piece of land, about two and one-half acres, that is being used by ArtsQuest as an arts and entertainment complex. Signing the agreement for the community was the Bethlehem Redevelopment Authority.

The union ban was deemed outrageous by a citizens group working to revitalize the area.

Speaking for the group, Seth Moglen, an associate professor at nearby Lehigh University, saw the union ban as "striking at the very heart of a democratic society." Another educator, David Kairys, a constitutional law professor at Temple University, said there were constitutional limits on deed restrictions.

"It’s un-American and so clearly wrong. Justices – liberal or conservative – would invalidate these restrictions," he advised.

But the executive director of the redevelopment authority was less concerned about the negotiated settlement.

"I recognize the concern," said Tony Hanna, "but I don’t believe it will be as troublesome as some people think it will be."