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Las Vegas Sands founder Adelson dies aged 87


Las Vegas Sands founder, chairman and chief executive Sheldon Adelson has died at the age of 87 from complications related to non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, the operator has announced.

“In Las Vegas, Macao and Singapore, Mr Adelson’s vision for integrated resorts transformed the industry, changed the trajectory of the company he founded, and reimagined tourism in each of those markets,” Las Vegas Sands said of its founder.

“While his business credentials – having started or been involved in more than 50 different enterprises – are unquestioned, his dedication to philanthropy and commitment to his family will truly be his legacy,” the operator added.

“He will be missed by people from all parts of the world who were touched by his generosity, kindness, intellect and wonderful sense of humor.”

Sheldon Adelson was an iconic figure in the industry, both in the US and further afield.

He founded Las Vegas Sands in 1988, having led a group of investors that purchased Las Vegas’ famous Sands Casino property.

The Sands Casino was later demolished in 1996 and replaced by the Venetian. In 2007, the operator opened the Palazzo adjoining the Venetian, making the combined resort the world’s largest hotel at the time.

Adelson proved to be a pioneer in Asia, after Macau opened its doors to legal gambling at the turn of the millennium. Las Vegas went on to play a major role in the Chinese Special Administrative Region’s transformation into the world’s leading gaming destination.

The business won one of three inaugural concessions to operate gambling in the territory, and constructed its first venue, Sands Macau, in 2004.

It followed this with several other resorts located on the Cotai Strip, including the Venetian Macau and Sands Cotai Central.

In 2010, the business expanded into Singapore, with the opening of Marina Bay Sands. It also entered Pennsylvania with Sands Casino Resort Bethlehem, which opened in 2009 and was later sold to the Poarch Band of Creek Indians in 2019.

The operator reported revenue of $13.7bn in 2019, making it the largest private gaming business – land-based or online – in the world. However, the novel coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic dealt a major blow to revenue in 2020, particularly in Macau.

Las Vegas Sands brought in $1.88bn in revenue for the first half of the year, down 73.1%, followed by $586m in Q3. Its losses for the first nine months of 2020 totalled $1.77bn.

Despite this, the operator noted that Adelson was “adamant that team members across the globe continue to receive full pay and health care benefits even while the buildings in which they worked were closed”.

Adelson announced that he was receiving treatment for non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma in March 2019. Last week, he took a leave of absence from Las Vegas Sands after resuming treatment.

This saw the business’ president and chief operating officer Robert Goldstein take over his positions of chairman and chief executive on an interim basis.

Prior to entering gaming, Adelson – who was born in the Dorchester neighbourhood of Boston – had organised trade shows, founding computer trade show brand Comdex. He also owned the Las Vegas Review-Journal as well as Israeli newspaper Israel Hayom.

Forbes estimated Adelson’s net worth at $35.8bn in November 2020. In 2007 and again in 2014, the magazine listed him among the ten richest people on Earth.

American Gaming Association (AGA) President and chief executive Bill Miller was among those who paid tributes to the late businessman.

“Today’s passing of Sheldon Adelson is a tremendous loss to the gaming community,” Miller said.

“Mr Adelson, founder and chairman of Las Vegas Sands, was a true visionary and pioneer of modern casino gaming for more than three decades. From Las Vegas and Pennsylvania to Macau and Singapore, his mark is indelible.”

Image: Bectrigger via Wikimedia Commons