Sheldon Adelson changed the Sands, Las Vegas and Macau By Ken Adams, CDC Gaming Reports January 18, 2021 at 5:00 pm Sheldon Adelson, the CEO of Las Vegas Sands, has died. Forbes listed him as the 28th wealthiest person in the world with $33.5 billion. Sheldon Adelson and Miriam Adelson at President Trump’s inauguration in January 2017. Adelson had three claims to fame. First, besides being the Sands CEO, he owned more of the company’s stock than anyone else. It was his Sands stock that put him on the Forbes list. Second, he was the largest individual donor to the Republican Party and the presidential campaigns of Donald Trump. He donated at least $100 million in each of the last two presidential election cycles. And third, he was a supporter of the State of Israel and its current prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu. Besides the Sands, he owned two newspapers, the Las Vegas Review-Journal and Israel Hayom, a free daily in Israel. Due to Sheldon Adelson’s enormous wealth and influence, he was eulogized, characterized, praised, and even demonized in newspapers around the world. In Asia, he was called “the man who turned water into casinos and wealth in Macau,” by the publication Macau Business. In the early days of the transition and integration of Macau into mainland China, Macau expanded its gaming laws to allow foreign investors. Adelson went there to investigate its potential for a casino. He saw Macau as more than a place for his company to make money. He saw a destination; Adelson envisioned a strip like that in Las Vegas with many multi-national, multi-billion-dollar casino-resorts. The land he wanted to use was still partially under water. His vision succeeded and Wynn Resorts, Crown Resorts and MGM followed Adelson to Macau. Each built an at least billion-dollar palace on the Cotai Strip. At its peak in 2015, Macau generated $46 billion in casino revenue annually. In obituaries in the region, Adelson was ranked second to gambling legend Stanley Ho in importance and afforded the highest honor and praises. In Singapore, the LV Sands was as successful; the Straits Times described him as being “unfazed by risks, rivals or the law.” In the Middle East, his image was bifurcated. In the Arab world and press, he was seen as the enemy of Palestine, Islam, and pan-Arab causes. Aljazeera said this about him: “Sheldon Adelson’s support for ‘extreme anti-Palestinian positions’ will be felt for many years to come, Palestinian political analysts said.” On the other hand, in Israel, Adelson was an honored and respected man—at least most of the time. Israeli politics can be as divisive and polarized as any in the world, so even in Israel, he had his critics. Still, even among his detractors, it was felt that Adelson more than any other person pushed Israel into being a major priority of the Trump administration. The Times of Israel opined, “With money to back up his views, Adelson has been credited with helping foster the GOP’s adoption of hardline pro-Israel policies, though it would take until Trump’s term in office beginning in 2017 for many of the top items on his agenda to come to fruition. ‘It is impossible to overstate the significance that Sheldon Adelson, along with his wife Miriam, had on shaping US policy with regard to Israel,’ Republican Jewish Committee executive director Matt Brooks said.” In the United States, Sheldon Adelson also has had two storylines and two characters; at times, it seemed he was two different people. Depending on your politics, Adelson was either a demon trying to buy a presidency, then dictate the policies of the president and the Republican Party, or a true conservative, striving to support and assist legitimate conservative values. On the other hand, while he very publicly supported Trump and the Republican Party, he also fought tooth and nail against online gambling and the legalization of marijuana. Adelson was as generous with charities as he was with political candidates. He followed a Jewish tradition that he learned from his father of helping others less fortunate than himself; his generosity was not situational, it was systemic, a part of his character. In Las Vegas, except for his acquisition of the Las Vegas Review-Journal and his battles with unions, Adelson had a good reputation. After the Venetian was open and operating successfully, Adelson was seen as having taught the city about the value of conventions and group travel. With a background in trade shows and mass travel, he set out to build a billion-dollar resort around those concepts. The rest of the operators on the Strip may not have laughed out loud, but they didn’t trip over themselves praising his business foresight and acumen either. However, over time with the help of the stellar financial results of the Sands in Vegas and later in Asia, the industry came to see the validity of his approach. From a very small and weak beginning with the old Las Vegas Sands, the playground of Frank Sinatra and his friends, Sheldon Adelson built a company that today is worth $40 billion; a year ago before the pandemic, it was worth $70 billion. He built it around the concept of an integrated resort; in an Adelson resort, the mass market is as important as the premium. Even in Macau, the Sands does better at catering to both premium and mass markets than its competitors. Adelson’s death will create a hole in his company and the industry. The management of the Sands is more than qualified to operate the businesses he created, but they will not have his foresight and vision, nor Adelson’s willingness to invest his own money to save the company or pursue a dream. That willingness, more than anything else, characterized Sheldon Adelson. Whatever the cause or issue, he was always willing to invest his own money. Whether you agree with his principles or not, it is hard to argue that he was not driven by principle and just following trends and reacting with a knee-jerk to a crisis. It has been true in Macau during the current crisis. It was true in Israel when he established Hayom. It was true in Pennsylvania when he fought against online gaming, even though, as we can now see, it was very profitable. It was true in politics and it was true in his private life. Whatever else he may have or not have done, Adelson certain changed Las Vegas, Macau, and Frank Sinatra’s Sands.