The president of Las Vegas Sands started his career when he was 12 and became a millionaire by the time he was in his thirties.
One of the most controversial figures on the American business and political scene, 80-year old Sheldon Gary Adelson is the chairman and chief executive officer of Las Vegas Sands, one of the world’s leading casino developers.
Born in a modest Ukrainian Jewish family, Adelson grew up in the Dorchester neighborhood of Boston, Massachusetts. His father was a taxi driver and his mother owned a knitting shop. According to the most famous business magazines, he is currently the 5th richest person in America and the 9th richest in the world.
His wealth has certainly brought him a lot of power, as Adelson is considered to be one of the most influential business magnates.
Born for business
In 1945, 12 year-old Sheldon made his first entrepreneurial move: he borrowed $200 from his uncle to purchase a license to sell newspapers in Boston. Four years later, he started a candy vending machine business. He went to trade school, preparing to become a court reporter, and then joined the army.
Soon after he was discharged, Adelson started to sell toiletry kits and then founded a company named De-Ice-It, trading a special spray used to clear windshields. The young businessman signed up for classes at the City College of New York, but he dropped out after a short while.
It turns out he didn’t really need an entrepreneurial education anyway, as he seemed to have an innate business sense. In the ‘60s, he got into the charter tours business. By the time he was 30 he had built from scratch and managed several companies and even though he had lost a great deal of money – twice! – he became a millionaire.
Over the years, Sheldon Adelson has started over 50 of his own businesses, including the Interface Group Show Division and computer trade show Comdex, which he later sold to a Japanese corporation for a personal profit of $500 million. Today, he is a casino giant.
Building the casino kingdom
Casinos owned by Sheldon Adelson’s company, Las Vegas Sands:
• The Venetian
• The Palazzo
• Sands Bethlehem, Pennsylvania
• Sands Macau
• Marina Bay Sands
Sheldon Adelson entered the casino business in 1988, when he and his partners bought the Sands Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas. The place certainly had an interesting past and it was known as the former hangout of celebrities like Frank Sinatra and the Rat Pack. Adelson brought it back to life by adding the country’s first privately owned and operated convention center.
Three years later, the businessman tore down the Sands casino and built a Venice-themed resort instead. The Venetian cost $1.5 billion to construct, but Adelson decided this was not enough and later added over 1,000 suites, 18 restaurants, shopping malls and canals with gondolas to the resort.
Having so much success with his casinos in Las Vegas, the time came to expand in Macau. Adelson took the Sands brand to the former Portuguese colony in 2004. This was the first Las Vegas-style casino in the People’s Republic of China and it was a huge hit. The company chairman recovered his $265-million investment in just one year. His total wealth multiplied by more than 14 times with the help of revenues made by the resort in Macau.
The casino giant even managed to penetrate the gambling market in Singapore. Despite the widely contested license, the new Marina Bay Sands casino opened in 2010. Last year, the businessman said he was willing to spend “whatever it takes” to obtain a casino license in Japan, as the country is considering opening the gambling market before the 2020 Olympics.
Protecting the kingdom
With online and mobile casinos on the rise, Adelson sees them as a threat, so he created and funded the Coalition to Stop Internet Gambling. The organization even drafted a federal bill which has the main purpose of banning online casino games.
Internet gambling and online poker sites finally arrived to the US last November, after American gambling laws were changed to allow internet gambling at a state level. Nevada, Delaware and New Jersey were the first ones to jump at the opportunity, but other states are considering introducing legal virtual casinos.
The proposal drafted by the Coalition to Stop Internet Gambling aims to “restore long-standing United States policy that the Wire Act prohibits Internet gambling to give Congress and the public time to fully examine the issues surrounding Internet gambling, including the potential for money laundering, fraud, terrorism financing, cyber-crimes and participation by minors”.
It comes as no surprise that Adelson is willing to do whatever it takes to protect his legacy. After all, he’s put 68 years into building his present fortune and this seems to guarantee his reputation as king of casinos.