Adelson Trying to Bend it Like Beckham By Ken Adams January 1, 2014 at 7:52 pm Sheldon Adelson is not the most popular person in the industry. He is said to be a very harsh manager, a very demanding negotiator and very critical of his competitors – but with his very high profile he is difficult to ignore. Early in 2013, Adelson shocked many observers in the gaming industry when he announced his intention to build a $30 billion project in Spain, and then he shocked them again when he dropped the plan. There is no reason any of us should have been shocked; Adelson is always doing the unexpected. Sheldon Adelson is one of the four or five richest and most successful casino operators in the world. His road to gaming and Las Vegas was long and winding; it took him 45 years to progress from selling newspapers in Boston to operating a casino in Las Vegas. Adelson first came to Las Vegas via his bus charter business company, next with the trade show COMDEX and finally into operating a casino when he bought the Sands in 1988. He built the Sands Expo and Convention Center next to the Sands, the only privately owned convention center in the country. In 1995, he sold COMDEX and pocketed $500 million. It was enough money to fuel his casino dream – the Venetian – a $1.5 billion resort which he built after razing the old Sands of Frank Sinatra and the Rat Pack fame. According to Forbes, Adelson’s wealth increased by $15 billion in 2013; it was the largest increase of any American. Apparently the world of the very wealthy is highly volatile; in 2009 Forbes estimated Adelson’s wealth at $3.4 billion, in 2007 it was said to be $26.5 billion. That is the kind of wild ride that would have made me sick to my stomach. However, the increase in wealth is merely a paper value. The increase represents the increase in value of his stock in Las Vegas Sands and probably has nothing to do with his take home pay or his life style. home pay or his life style. Las Vegas Sands chief exec Sheldon Adelson hit the jackpot in 2013. The gambling tycoon’s net worth soared $15 billion, or 68%, through Friday, December 20. He is now worth just over $37 billion, and he’s climbed from the nation’s 11th richest this Fall to number 5 at the moment. Put another way, his fortune grew by a staggering $41 million a day. Adelson added more to his fortune than any other person, thanks largely to the success of his casinos in Macau and Singapore, which led to stellar financial results. Not even cancelling plans to open a Sands casino in Madrid could dampen his year. Forbes, 12-23-13 Adelson does not sit quietly and count his money. He is always on the public stage declaring his opinions and announcing his ventures. During the last presidential campaign, Adelson became a central figure in the Republican Party by donating an estimated $50 million dollars to a variety of candidates. He did not manage to buy a president or even a presidential candidate, but I suspect he did buy a seat at the Republican Party table. A man willing to spend $50 million on an election is a hard man to ignore. In 2013, Adelson jumped into another political fight against online gaming. He has said that he is willing to spend “whatever it takes” to defeat any efforts to legalize online gaming. Adelson did not go to Washington D. C. to testify in person, but did send a representative to tell Congress that online gaming was bad – bad for the gaming industry and worse for the gambling public. In Adelson’s world view, gambling belongs in a huge resort like Macau, not in the living rooms of all Americans. Congress got a taste of what Sheldon Adelson’s new campaign against Internet gambling may look like Tuesday, when one of the Las Vegas Sands CEO’s top deputies appeared before members of the House Energy and Commerce Committee to call for a clampdown on online betting. “This is our Joe Camel moment. … It could very well be the demise of our industry,” Las Vegas Sands Vice President of Government Affairs Andrew Abboud told the panel, calling on lawmakers to reinstate an understanding of the Wire Act that would bar financial transactions for gaming online. “We just think turning every device into a casino takes gambling too far.” Karoun Demirjian, 12-11-13 His opposition to online gaming is not shared by most of his peers. The industry sent Geoff Freeman, the new CEO of the American Gaming Association, to testify in support of legalizing and regulating online gaming. Freeman, speaking for the most of the larger corporations in the gaming industry, told Congress that the time to legalize and regulate online gaming is now. According to Freeman, regulated online gaming is good – it is good for the gaming industry, good for the gamblers and good for the nation. Adelson is fighting a losing battle; no one company, nor any one individual is going to be able to prevent the spread of online gaming, any more than online retail could be stopped. Legalized and regulated online gaming may not get federal approval, but it certainly is going to spread at the state level. In 2013, Delaware, Nevada and New Jersey started permitting online gaming within their states’ borders. Adelson is more successful in business than he is in politics. He is doing very well in Singapore and Macau and those successes have whetted his appetite for resorts in other countries. He has expressed interest in Japan, Korea, Vietnam and Europe. His first concrete plan was the $30 billion project, EuroVegas, in Spain. He used his favorite model – Macau – proposing to participate in building a resort zone with multiple casino resorts, hotels, retail and entertainment venues. In the proposal, the Sands would have built some of the projects and other casino or resort operators would build the others. However, the plan did not survive the year; Adelson wanted major concessions from the Spanish government. He wanted a waiver on the public smoking ban and some tax breaks. Spain desperately needs major job generating projects, but politically Adelson’s demands were too high a price to pay and the government refused. Adelson withdrew his proposal, but less than two weeks later he was talking about building Macau-like entertainment zones in other major European capitals. I don’t know if he is serious or just likes to watch people jump up and down and drool when he talks. Adelson does command everyone’s attention with his proposals and I think he enjoys the attention. Casino operator Las Vegas Sands on Friday scrapped plans to build a “EuroVegas” resort near Madrid after the Spanish government rejected as illegal concessions demanded for the investment. The company, led by 80-year-old American tycoon Sheldon Adelson, had proposed a 22 billion-euro ($30 billion) project that was to include 12 hotels, six casinos, a convention center, golf courses, theaters, shopping malls, bars and restaurants. The government in Spain, where unemployment stands at 26 percent, had hoped it might create some 260,000 jobs, especially among the young, where unemployment is around 50 percent. Associated Press, 12-13-13 Billionaire Sheldon Adelson said he is considering building individual integrated resorts in major European cities, 10 days after abandoning a plan to construct a $30 billion mega-resort in Spain. “I’m looking at a different model of doing Singapore-like or Japan-like or Korea-like individual IRs in individual cities,” Adelson said in an interview in Herzliya, Israel yesterday. “We will just take the major cities in Europe and see whether or not there is a possibility to pursue that.” Sheldon Adelson, the head of the Las Vegas Sands Corporation, told Bloomberg on Monday that he will be examining options in various European cities such as Athens, Rome, Madrid, Barcelona, Milan and Paris for the creation of casino resorts. – Alisa Odenheimer/ Elliott Gotkine, Bloomberg, 12-23-13 Adelson appears to like power along with attention, or maybe they are the same thing. After all, he nearly managed to change public policy in Spain. Adelson has been interested in Israel and Israeli politics for a long time; he owns the most widely read daily newspaper in the country. One of the reasons for his political donations in this country is to be able to influence American policy toward Israel, but it also gives him more political power in Israel. Most recently he attended the opening of a school of entrepreneurship named in his honor and built with his money. During the dedication, Adelson said he might come and lecture occasionally. The Dr. Miriam and Sheldon G. Adelson School of Entrepreneurship, inaugurated at IDC Herzliya college on Sunday is the first school of its kind in Israel. IDC president: The Adelson School of Entrepreneurship is about to change the academic status quo. The Dr. Miriam and Sheldon G. Adelson School of Entrepreneurship, the first school of its kind in Israel, was inaugurated on Sunday at the Interdisciplinary Center Herzliya college. The new institute, designed for excelling students, will provide pupils with all the knowledge and tools to realize their entrepreneurial ideas and ambitions. Israel Hayom, 12-23-13 For a man in his 80’s he certainly has a great deal of energy and ambition. I don’t very often agree with his politics, but I admire his successes and find him to be endlessly entertaining to watch. In Macau, Adelson found it a bit annoying that the casinos cannot advertise in Mainland China where the majority of the Sands’ players live. So, he found an alternative in David Beckham, one of the best know football (soccer) players in the world. Adelson can’t advertise in China, but Beckham can tour China and subtly represent his casino masters. Retired football star and sometime underwear model David Beckham has signed on to help promote Las Vegas Sands’ properties in Singapore and the Chinese gambling enclave of Macau. Sands said in a statement that it hopes to cash in on Beckham’s popularity in the region. The Las Vegas-based company is the largest casino operator in Macau, the centre of the modern-day gambling world. The deal may help Sands win attention in mainland China, where casinos are illegal and casino advertising is also banned. Soccer is hugely popular in China. Simon Tomlinson, London Daily Mail, 12-23-13 It is a master stroke. The last time a casino was as creative was in the 1980’s when Caesars (the original Caesars) sent Mohammad Ali on a tour of Africa. Ali held private parties in each country for the richest citizens; and because of Ali’s status, not many people turned down the invitation. Later, many of them found their way to Las Vegas and Caesars. I suspect Beckham will have as much success. Bend it like Beckham is a famous phrase describing the way Beckham could bend the trajectory of a ball as it wended its way passed the defenders to the goal. Adelson may not be as good at bending the trajectory as Beckham, but he is certainly trying to bend the trajectory of gaming to get the ball into his goal.