Las Vegas Sands Corp. founder Sheldon Adelson passed away Monday evening at the age of 87. According to a press release from the company, Adelson died from complications relating to treatment for non-Hodgkins lymphoma.
Adelson started his entrepreneurial career in the late 1970s when he and his business partners developed COMDEX, which became one of the largest trade shows in the world for the computer industry. The business exploded and the company was eventually sold in 1995 to SoftBank Corporation for $862 million. Adelson netted $500 million on the transaction.
While COMDEX was reaching its peak, the Boston native began to transition into the casino industry. In 1988, he purchased the Sands Hotel and Casino for $110 million. He formed Las Vegas Sands Corp. shortly thereafter.
Following the purchase of Sands, Adelson immediately began to expand in Las Vegas. He built the Sands Expo and Convention Center the following year before demolishing the Sands Casino and spending $1.5 billion to build the Venetian in its place. The company’s other Las Vegas Strip property, the Palazzo, was finished at the end of 2007.
In the 2000s, Las Vegas Sands expanded into Pennsylvania and eventually Asia. The company owns several properties in Macau and Singapore. It also had plans to expand into Japan but bailed on them in May 2020.
Over the last few months, as the COVID-19 pandemic continues to hurt the Las Vegas gambling industry, it was revealed that the company was looking into selling its Las Vegas casinos. With Adelson’s death, those plans might be up in the air. It was also reported that Adelson was pushing for the legalization of brick-and-mortar casinos in Texas, as gambling has exploded there with legalized card rooms.
In 2011, several months after the U.S. government cracked down on online poker operators still doing business within its borders, Adelson made his anti-online gambling views public, citing moral concerns and a belief that the technology wasn’t available to stop underage gaming.
Despite many of his peers believing that online gambling should be legal and regulated, Adelson took the opposite opinion and called it a “toxin” and said that he was “willing to spend whatever it takes” to keep online poker out of the U.S.
He was a large donor to Republican candidates who supported the prohibition. Adelson contributed a total of $480 million to the party over the last decade, including a record $172.7 million in 2020 alone.
In January 2014, Adelson formed The Coalition to Stop Online Gambling. About a year after the formation, the lobbying group publicly supported the Restore America’s Wire Act, which would alter the DOJ’s 2011 interpretation of the Wire Act, which stated that the law only applied to sports betting.
RAWA would make it illegal for all forms of gambling to take place across state lines, effectively outlawing all forms of interstate online poker. While the bill never picked up any significant steam, Adelson eventually got his way at the start of 2019 when the DOJ reconsidered the 2011 opinion and sided with Adelson.
The 2019 opinion is now in the middle of what is likely a lengthy legal battle after the New Hampshire Lottery filed suit. Along with online gambling, a strict interpretation of the Wire Act could shut down lotteries like Powerball, which operate across state lines to pool liquidity.