Casino magnate Sheldon Adelson dies at 87

Developer and hotel owner pioneered concept of casinos as resorts, and was major GOP donor

Sheldon Adelson and the Venetian in Las Vegas (Gettty)
Sheldon Adelson and the Venetian in Las Vegas (Gettty)

Billionaire Sheldon Adelson, who developed and operated casinos throughout Las Vegas and Asia and was a major donor to the Republican Party, died at 87. The cause was complications from lymphoma, the New York Times reported.

Adelson, CEO of the Las Vegas Sands Corp., pioneered the concept of casinos as resorts, building properties like the Venetian in Las Vegas and Marina Bay Sands in Singapore that included shopping centers, museums and convention centers along with the usual slot machines, blackjack tables and hotel rooms.

After taking Las Vegas Sands Corp. public in 2004, he became one of the world’s richest executives, whose net worth was estimated at $35 billion by Forbes.

Adelson was also a major political player, donating millions of dollars to Republican lawmakers and candidates, and influencing policy decisions, particularly through his support of President Trump. In the 2020 election season, the Adelsons contributed more than $54 million to Republican leaning or conservative committees, by far the most of any real estate player.

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His own gamble on the casino business began in the 1980s, according to the Wall Street Journal, when he bought the Sands Hotel and Casino on Las Vegas’s Strip with the intention of replacing it with a convention center. The Venetian, which has a canal with gondoliers winding through the property, eventually rose in its place.

The Las Vegas Sands Corp. now operates nine resort casinos in Las Vegas, Singapore and Macao. In recent months, the company was reportedly exploring a sale of its three Vegas casinos, which could have potentially fetched as much as $6 billion.

In a statement, Dr. Miriam Adelson praised her late husband’s “grit and genius, inspiration and integrity.”

“His was an all-American story of entrepreneurship,” her statement read. “When Sheldon launched a new venture, the world looked on with anticipation.” [NYT, WSJ] — Amy Plitt