On January 12, 2021, Sheldon Adelson, 87, passed away from non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma complications. Sheldon Adelson was a business billionaire tycoon and a philanthropist who spearheaded the United States’ casino-resort model. Adelson founded the Las Vegas Sands Corporation and was hugely successful in North America and abroad.
Adelson drew conflicting opinions with supporters and critics. He and his wife, Dr. Miriam Adelson, were firm backers of the Republican party and mega-donors to conservative think tanks and super PACs. Adelson received praise for his response to the coronavirus pandemic in his businesses. He continued to provide full pay and benefits to all his workers even though all venues were shut down.
- Sheldon Adelson passed away due to complications of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma.
- Adelson was a GOP and Trump supporter and was a mega-donor to the conservative party.
- Adelson was strictly against online casinos and lobbied to keep US online gambling illegal.
Adelson’s Rags-to-Riches Journey
Sheldon Adelson grew up in a low-income Jewish family in Boston, Massachusetts. His father was an immigrant taxi driver, and his mother worked in a knitting shop. Adelson started his entrepreneurial career at the age of 12 when he borrowed $200 from one of his uncles to buy a license to sell newspapers on a street corner in Boston.
Rumors say that Adelson had as many as 50 different businesses he owned, or in which he had a hand. In 2014, Forbes estimated his fortune at $36.6 billion, making him the world’s eighth or ninth wealthiest person. At the time of his death, Sheldon Adelson’s net worth was $40 billion. When talking about his entrepreneurial drive, Adelson said:
businesses are like buses. […] You stand on a corner and don’t like where the first bus is going? Wait 10 minutes and take another. Don’t like that one? They’ll just keep coming. There’s no end to buses or businesses.
Casino Business Endeavors
In 1988, Adelson purchased the Sands Hotel-Casino on the Las Vegas Strip. Shortly after buying the property, he built the Sands Expo and Convention Center to create the industry’s first expo-hotel-casino combination. This allowed organizations to hold huge events next to the Sands Hotel and provide the casino with massive foot traffic.
In 1999, Adelson tore down the Sands Hotel-Casino and opened the world-renowned The Venetian. Many of Adelson’s contemporaries were opposed to the idea of having a plaza or convention center mixed with the regular land-based casinos so regularly seen on The Strip.
According to Adelson, The Venetian’s business model of including a conference hall/plaza was “not just laughed at, but made fun of.” His willingness to push the boundaries of the industry led to his great success.
Billionaire Republican Donor
Originally, Sheldon Adelson was a Democrat until he began to disagree with the party’s economic policies, perhaps due to the slight crackdown on the ultra-wealthy. It is not uncommon for billionaires to reject Democratic economic policies, and Adelson was no different.
He was a public supporter of George W. Bush’s reelection campaign, and in 2012 Adelson wrote an opinion piece in the Wall Street Journal claiming that “[he] didn’t leave the Democrats, they left [him].”
When Trump began his campaign in 2015-2016, Adelson was at the forefront of public support. In 2016, Sheldon and his wife, Miriam, donated an approximated $82.5 million to GOP causes and groups. Subsequently, during the 2018 and 2020 election cycles, the Adelsons donated a staggering $350 million to Republican candidates, according to the Center For Responsive Politics.
On November 16, 2018, Adelson’s wife, Miriam Adelson, was recognized by President Donald Trump during a Medal of Freedom ceremony. Although Adelson once told Forbes that he is “against very wealthy people attempting to influence our elections,” his formal recognition solidified himself as one of the most influential political donors of his generation.
Online Gambling Opposition
Adelson was a multifaceted human being with many interests and passions, but no force was as strong as the one to outright ban online gambling. It makes sense, seeing as Adelson’s business interests were grounded in brick-and-mortar casinos, and online gambling is the number one threat to the industry.
He spent extraordinary amounts of money lobbying against the legalization of online gambling since as early as 2011. Adelson claims that his mission is not tied to his business tenures. He believes in “gambling as a form of entertainment, but [he] is not in favor of exploiting the world’s most vulnerable people.”
Many critics saw this as Adelson trying to boost his already philanthropic and altruistic profile while having ulterior business motives. Adelson’s efforts and lobbying have had significant sway in the political sphere, and to this day, there is still legal battling on the status of online gambling.
The Adelson Legacy
Although opinion was divided on Sheldon Adelson, people will not soon forget his philanthropic efforts and all he did to improve the gambling industry. His generosity during the coronavirus pandemic will stand as one of his final most outstanding achievements.
His wife and six children survive Adelson. His ideas, missions, and ambitions will have an impact for generations to come. It remains to be seen how his efforts will continue to affect the legalization of online casinos throughout the United States. The casino industry will continue to modernize and thrive as a result of Adelson’s efforts for three decades.