If there is one person that is the most polarizing when it comes to online gambling in the United States, it has to be Sheldon Adelson.
The man has essentially single-handedly curbed the growth of the industry, and in fact, has been backing the senators who are trying to make the whole online industry illegal in this country.
But while you may know the name, what else do you know about the man himself.
Let’s dig a little deeper into the life of Adelson and show you how he came to prominence.
The Formative Years
Like many of the stories of the most successful business owners of this era, Adelson did not come from money. In fact, when he was born on August 4, 1933, he was brought into a poor family in the suburbs of Boston.
His father was a taxi driver and mother ran a sewing shop… living the American Dream, if not a rich and successful one.
Sheldon was an entrepreneur at heart; he started his first business at the age of 12, launching a newspaper selling business. That quickly morphed into a vending machine business when he was 16, and his empire was starting to take shape.
Adelson did attempt a run at college, enrolling at the City College of New York. However, it didn’t take too long for him to realize that it wasn’t for him, so he dropped out and decided to join the army.
He stayed in the army until being discharged; he then started a company selling toiletry Kits, one of a reported 50 different companies he would go on the launch.
Joining the Computer Revolution… (sort of)
One of the many businesses that Adelson was in was the condominium business until the real estate market took a nosedive in the 1970s. However, as a result of being in the business, he had attended a major condo convention and realized the potential revenue of these large-scale events.
In that time, he had also acquired a magazine company; one of the magazines was a computer magazine (rare in those times). Adelson had his “A-ha” moment and realized that if the condo convention could be so well attended (and profitable), then the world would soon want a computer convention.
In 1973, he launched his first computer trade show, which was met with moderate success, but Adelson wasn’t stopping there; he knew he was onto something big. It just needed a spark.
Taking the Show to Las Vegas
Along with several partners, Adelson created the COMDEX computer convention in 1979; the biggest computer trade show in the world. Adelson felt the show should be held in one of the biggest hotels in the world; they launched it at the MGM Grand Hotel in Las Vegas.
He nailed the timing; the personal computer was just hitting the market, and the industry was about to explode. COMDEX became a very profitable venture, and the parent company started running other conventions around the world.
Parlaying His Profit Into Gambling
Now that the convention business was booming, Adelson and his partners set their sights on finding a great hotel property. They settled on the Sands Hotel on the Las Vegas Strip, which they purchased for 128 Million USD in 1988.
Adelson immediately started making changes to the property; the most notable being adding a shopping center and convention facility to be able to host his COMDEX event among others.
In 1995, COMDEX was sold for $850 million, of which Adelson personally pocketed around 500 million. This finally gave him the ability to work on his own, so he left the partnership and went out on his own.
With the money in the bank to be able to negotiate large-scale financing deals, Adelson decided to take his hotel and convention center concept to the next level; he broke ground on the 1.5 Billion dollar Venetian resort in 1995, and despite major construction challenges, it opened for business in 1999.
The results were immediate; the beautiful property, complete with a running river inside the hotel, was a huge success. This was great news for Adelson – he had gone from a would-be entrepreneur on the east coast to a global casino magnate.
Taking His Talents Overseas
While the success of the Venetian was lining Adelson’s pockets, his fortune didn’t truly hit the jackpot until he was invited to build a property in the Asian gambling Mecca of Macau.
Gaming licenses were hard to come by, and some were being released. However, many of the American casino owners were not interested in a location they knew very little about, that seemed seedy and where they weren’t sure what to expect financially.
Adelson, forever the gambler, went all in. He was approved for a license and built a replica of the Venetian on the Chinese province.
In 2004, the Venetian Macau opened for business; it recouped all the costs within 9 months, and the rest of the gambling world took notice.
Next up for Adelson?Topping his own initiative in Macau.
He received another gaming license (this time with a lot of competition) and the rights to build a mega-resort in Singapore. In 2010, at a reported cost of 5.5 billion dollars, the Marina Bay Sands Hotel and Casino opened its doors.
A Political Opinion or Two
Not one to shy away from the limelight, Adelson has always made his political feelings well known. That, combined with some significant contributions, propelled him into the political spotlight.
Amazingly, once a staunch Democrat, his business dealings led him to switch allegiances, and in the early 2000s, he started pouring money into the Republican Party. In 2004, he donated a significant amount of money to the inauguration of George W. Bush; that contribution would pave the way for his other passion (more on that to follow).
After donating 100 Million to various campaigns during the 2012 Presidential season, Adelson became a powerhouse in the party; this past election, all the Republican hopefuls made their way to his office to ask for their support. I think we all know what he settled on.
Taking on Online Gambling
One thing that Adelson does not want to be involved in, and therefore expects no one else to be able to either, is online gambling. Over the years, many bills have been presented in the Senate; almost all of them have Adelson’s hands all over them.
It is unclear why a casino magnate is so steadfastly against internet versions of the games played in his casino; one would assume he thinks it would devalue his properties, but that has been proven not to be the case at all.
At any rate, he continues to be very vocal in his support of making the whole industry illegal; it is hard to see this ending anytime during his lifetime.
Personal Life and Charity
Now, we have given Adelson the gears for his political beliefs and disdain for the online gaming industry, but we also have to give him credit for his charitable contributions.
With his wife Miriam, Adelson has given hundreds of millions of dollars to charitable causes, from Israeli and Jewish foundations to the medical community. All told, Adelson is one of the top donators in all of the country.
Sheldon Adelson is definitely a polarizing individual; his political beliefs and support alone cause waves of outrage in the public forums.
However, what cannot be denied is that the man knows how to build a resort; his properties continue to be incredibly successful, bringing his wealth to a size that makes him one of the wealthiest men in the world.
We in the online gambling market may not like his stance on our industry, but we have to respect him for the empire he has built and hope his legacy will remain on the positive side of the ledger.