Casino Magnate, Sheldon Adelson, Dies Aged 87

Sheldon Adelson, a big name in the casino world and an important political donor to Donald Trump and the GOP, has died at age 87.

Adelson’s wife, Dr Miriam Adelson, made a statement on Tuesday saying that Adelson, the CEO of Las Vegas Sands, had died following a long illness. According to the Las Vegas Review-Journal, he’d been battling non-Hodgkin lymphoma since 2019.

Who is Sheldon Adelson?

In September 2020, Forbes listed the billionaire as the 28th-richest person in the world, with a fortune of $33.5bn.

There’s evidence for his entrepreneurial spirit from childhood. At just 12 years old, he borrowed money for a special licence allowing him to begin selling newspapers in Boston. He borrowed again when he was 15, so he could start a candy-vending-machine business.

Many argue he’s a self-made billionaire, but others dispute it. He borrowed the equivalent of $108k to start the newspaper and candy-vending-machine businesses. There aren’t many 12 or 15-year-olds who have access to that sort of cash. But those businesses didn’t particularly take off, and he made and lost his fortunes more than once over the years, showing great perseverance in his drive to create viable businesses.

Casino Empire

Adelson amassed the majority of his fortune via casinos, opening the Sands Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas in 1988. You can see his entrepreneurial spirit in his adoption of risky strategies. For instance, the Sands Hotel was one of the first US casinos to offer Baccarat to its players – it did not go well for the casino, and they lost a whopping $250k in a single night. After review, the casino tweaked the odds in favour of the house and, today, not only do his casino resorts still offer Baccarat, so do many other casinos across the US.

Today, the Las Vegas Sands Corp. (the once parent company of the Sands Hotel and Casino), in which the Adelson family has a 53% stake, owns casino resorts across the world, including 3 on the Las Vegas strip, 5 in Macau, and one in Singapore.

Some of these casinos, such as The Marina Bay Sands, cost as much as $6.8bn to develop, and feature sprawling shopping malls, thousands of hotel suites, theatres, hundreds of tables and thousands of slot machines.

It’s easy to understand why his casinos are some of the most popular in the world.

Politics

A controversial figure, in 2020, Adelson set a new record for political donors from individuals, donating $172.7m to the Trump campaign and other Republican campaigns. He had a history of making large political donations, and it’s guessed that these donations went some way towards influencing political decisions by successive US governments.

Despite huge donations in 2020, Adelson was wary of Trump’s previous 2016 presidential campaign. Trump had little success in the casino industry, despite several attempts and had a poor reputation within the gambling world. This may have coloured Adelson’s views on Trump, and in 2016, he donated less than expected, with donations of $20m.

Trump commented on Adelson’s death on Tuesday, saying he “lived the true American Dream”. Former president, George W Bush also made comments, saying “Laura and I mourn the passing of a friend”.

A picture of Las Vegas Casinos at night, with Paris Las Vegas at the forefront. You can see the Eiffel tower building in the middle - it's the most prominent part of the picture.