Casino Magnate & Philanthropist Sheldon Adelson Dies at 87

Casino Magnate & Philanthropist Sheldon Adelson Dies at 87
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Sheldon Adelson, one of the best-known casino operators in the world, has died at age 87 from complications related to treatment for non-Hodgkin's lymphoma.

Adelson, who died Monday night, built some of the most recognizable and prominent casino-resorts in Las Vegas and Asia, and was influential in American politics as a major donor to Republican candidates, including President Donald Trump.

He also famously took activist positions on high-profile public issues, notably as an opponent both of Internet gambling and the legalization of marijuana. Amassing enormous wealth — Forbes recently placed his fortune at nearly $30 billion — Adelson was also a generous philanthropist.

Among Adelson’s businesses interests outside of the casino industry were newspapers in the U.S. and Israel. When he acquired the Las Vegas Review-Journal in 2015, the move raised eyebrows because of the perceived link between the most prominent print news operation in the city and an outsized casino industry leader.

Born and raised in modest circumstances in Boston, Adelson went on to become a self-made millionaire as an entrepreneur in many businesses before achieving substantial wealth through the evolution and then sale of COMDEX, the best-known computer trade show during the rise of that industry in the 1980s and ‘90s.

He put his imprint on the gaming industry when he opened the Venetian, an opulent casino-resort on the Las Vegas Strip in 1999. Built during a Las Vegas era when new resorts were designed to evoke romantic locales, the Venetian featured architecture that suggested the famous Italian city complete with a waterway on which gondoliers ferried tourists through a shopping mall.

Adelson later added a sister property, the nearby Palazzo.

Recent reports suggested that Adelson and Sands was exploring the sale of the Vegas Strip properties for $6 billion.

Sands also recently has started a push to bring casinos to Texas, which ultimately could lead to sports betting there.

Banking on Macau

Perhaps Adelson's boldest move was to pursue building a casino in China’s Macau, an endeavor that enriched his publicly traded company, Las Vegas Sands, its shareholders and himself. The Venetian Macau is one of the largest casinos in the world.

Always a proponent of the “integrated resort” concept where guests could find everything they wanted on a single property, Adelson’s company also erected a breath-taking high-rise resort in Singapore, the Marina Bay. Las Vegas Sands also built a casino in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, that was sold several years ago.

For years, Adelson had been an outlier in the gaming industry as an outspoken opponent of Internet gambling and contributed to politicians who suggested anti-online gaming laws, one of the most notable being The Restoration of America’s Wire Act, which would have reigned in the expansion of Internet gambling. Such efforts were largely unsuccessful. He and his wife, Dr. Miriam Adelson, were also critics of the broad legalization of cannabis.

’An All-American Story’

Adelson’s wife released a statement on the passing of her husband saying, “Sheldon was the love of my life. He was my partner in romance, philanthropy, political activism and enterprise. He was my soulmate. To me - as to his children, grandchildren, and his legions of friends and admirers, employees and colleagues - he is utterly irreplaceable.”

Dr. Adelson described her husband as “the son of poor immigrants, (who) rose to the pinnacle of business success on the strength of grit and genius, inspiration and integrity. His was an all-American story of entrepreneurship. When Sheldon launched a new venture, the world looked on with anticipation.”

Miriam Adelson also called her husband, “an American patriot: a U.S. Army veteran who gave generously to wounded warriors and, wherever he could, looked to the advancement of these great United States. He was the proudest of Jews, who saw in the State of Israel not only the realization of an historical promise to a unique and deserving people, but also a gift from the Almighty to all of humanity.”

Former President Bush Sends Condolences

Among those with words of praise for Adelson was former president George W. Bush.

"Laura and I mourn the passing of a friend, Sheldon Adelson," Bush said in a statement. "Sheldon battled his way out of a tough Boston neighborhood to build a successful enterprise that loyally employed tens of thousands — and entertained millions. He was an American patriot and a strong supporter of Israel.

"Sheldon was a generous benefactor of charitable causes, especially medical research and Jewish heritage education," Bush also said. "He will be missed by many — none more than his beloved family. Laura and I send our heartfelt condolences to Miriam, (and Adelson family members) Adam, Matan, Shelley, Gary, Yasmin, Sivan, their spouses, and Sheldon's many grandchildren."

American Gaming Association President and CEO Bill Miller called Mr. Adelson “a true visionary and pioneer of modern casino gaming for more than three decades. From Las Vegas and Pennsylvania to Macao and Singapore, his mark is indelible.”

During the COVID-19 pandemic, Las Vegas Sands was notable for its continuing pay and benefits support for many months for employees who were put out of work because of business shutdowns.

FOX News reported on Adelson’s political involvement as a donor to the Republican Party, noting that he gave more than $430 million to conservatives during the 2020 campaign. Adelson was a friend and donor to Trump's campaigns. Trump has a resort in Las Vegas not far from Adelson’s Venetian and Palazzo.

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