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Casino Giant Sheldon Adelson Dies Aged 87

Sheldon and Miriam Adelson
Photo: Union20, Wikimedia Commons

Casino magnate and political donor Sheldon Adelson has died at the age of 87.

The American has been a pivotal figure on the casino scene in his homeland and in Asia, and in operating a number of game-changing properties his net worth rose to around $33 billion – making him one of the richest people on the planet, according to Forbes Magazine.

It has been reported that he succumbed to non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, while his wife Dr Miriam Adelson confirmed that her husband had died of ‘complications from a long illness’. He leaves behind Dr Miriam and five children.

Adelson has also been a considerable figure in politics in his own way, and nobody donated more money to Donald Trump’s pre-presidency and re-election campaigns. He was thought to be a major influencer on the Don’s foreign policy in Israel – the billionaire is of Jewish descent – and so much so that Trump declared Jerusalem as the capital of the country in part due to Adelson’s bidding.

From Humble Beginnings

Boston Pinned on Map
As is so often the case with those who go on to become rich beyond their wildest dreams, Adelson was born into a relatively poor family – his father a Ukrainian-Jewish taxi driver and his mother a Lithuanian-Jewish shopkeeper, while his grandfather was a Welsh coal miner. But a lack of money can breed entrepreneurship in young people, and aged just 12 Adelson borrowed $200 from an uncle to buy a licence that allowed him to sell newspapers on the street corner in Boston.

Three years later and still attending school, a young Adelson borrowed $10,000 from the same uncle to start up his own vending machine business that sold sweets and chocolate bars, and after finishing college he flittered between jobs as a court reporter and in the armed forces.

But Adelson kept plugging away, starting up a raft of businesses – it’s estimated he set up more than 50 firms in his lifetime – and eventually becoming a millionaire in his thirties.

Casino King

Gondolas at the Venetian in Las Vegas
He splashed out a reported $110 million to purchase the Sands Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas in 1988, and three years later – while on honeymoon in Venice – he thought up an idea for a casino resort based on the iconic watery Italy city. Spending a whopping $1.5 billion on construction work, which included its own network of canals travailed by gondolier, the Venetian was born.

Further properties were built in Pennsylvania, before Adelson started casting his net overseas – starting with the Sands in Macau, which became the region’s first Las Vegas style casino. The Venetian Macau followed, and then came the Marina Bay Sands in Singapore.

However, his casino projects have not been without controversy. He was sued successfully for more than $100 million by Richard Suen, who claimed that the businessman failed to pay a ‘sweetener’ after Suen helped him to make the necessary connections to gain a gambling license in Macau.

In a later court case, it was also alleged that Adelson had bribed Chinese officials to build his casino in Macau – an accusation that was later ‘acknowledged’ by his legal team. A wrongful dismissal suit in 2015 also raised accusations of bribery and links to organised crime in China, which Adelson strenuously denied.

Awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2018 – only Elvis Presley and baseball legend Babe Ruth have been bestowed with such an honour before, Adelson leaves behind a legacy of quality casino operations and occasionally questionable business practices.