Sheldon Adelson, the man who turned water into casinos and wealth in Macau

The founder of the Las Vegas Sands casino empire, Sheldon Adelson, died yesterday at the age of 87, victim of cancer, with the American businessman having irrevocably changed Macau forever.

The son of Jewish immigrants, raised with two brothers on a Boston farm, he became, in the second half of his life, one of the richest men in the world.

The billionaire tycoon was the founder of a powerful group of casinos, from Las Vegas to Macau, controlling six of the largest casinos in the world and making about five billion euros a year.

Sheldon was considered the second most important tycoon in the history of the game in Macau, after Stanley Ho.

In 2018, Forbes magazine ranked him as the 15th richest man in the United States, with an estimated fortune of €28.8 billion.

“If we do things differently, success follows us like a shadow,” he said in 2014, during a conference for the gaming industry in Las Vegas.

Analysts have defended to Lusa that the North American casino magnate Sheldon Adelson, who died today at the age of 87, was one of the main visionaries who transformed Macau into what it is today: the gambling capital of the world.

“Just under a year after Stanley Ho, another visionary died,” lawyer Pedro Cortés, a partner at Rato, Ling, Lei & Cortés – Advogados, a consulting firm in the gambling field, told Lusa.

If Stanley Ho, who died 98 years in May 2020, is considered the father of casinos in Macau, Sheldon Adelson is almost unquestionably the man who most revolutionized the gaming industry after his liberalization in Macau, since 2002.

“Macau owes a lot of what it became to Mr. Sheldon Adelson, who received twice what he gave to the SAR”, stressed the Portuguese.

“One of the big names in the industry died who, along with Steve Wynn, helped to change the face of Macau after 2002”, he reinforced, referring to the two great US gaming magnates with properties in Macau.

The story of the founder of the gambling operator and integrated resorts Las Vegas Sands in Macau begins with the opening, on May 18, 2004, of the hotel-casino Sands Macao, on the Macau peninsula.

However, it was on the isthmus between the islands of Taipa and Coloane that the son of a taxi driver and a knitting shop manager made his name in the history of Macau: in 2007 ‘The Venetian Macao’ was opened, with about three thousand guest rooms, it is the largest casino in the world and became the seventh-largest building in the world in terms of floor area.

When faced with water and swampy terrain, Adelson directed his company to build land where there was none, stacking sand and thus “transformed the isthmus area, with many not believing in the vision he had for the industry,” recalled the Portuguese lawyer.

The opening of ‘The Venetian Macao’ was followed by the transformation of this land, once swampy, into the ‘world mecca of casinos’ with dozens of casino hotels to be built in the years that followed in this area, which is now nicknamed’ Cotai strip ‘.

International Integrated Resorts Managemen at the University Macau Professor Glenn McCartney appoints Sheldon Adelson as “a central figure in Macau”, for the vision and legacy that “transformed the territory” in the gaming capital of the world, but also one of the main tourist centres in the world, since it normally receives (before the pandemic) about three million visitors per month.

“We will never forget his contributions to the development of Macau, which go back to his courageous vision of creating the Cotai Strip. Its investment in Macau, its industry, its people and its community have changed, literally and figuratively, the landscape of our city in more than one way,” Sands Chinaincidcated in a statement.

“The Venetian Macao has created a landmark and iconic landmark in Macau, including one of the largest convention and exhibition facilities in Asia. This success paved the way for other tourism enterprises integrated in Cotai, and the transformation of Macau into a world center for tourism and leisure, ”added the group, recalling that after The Venetian Macao, the company also built the Four Seasons and The Plaza Macau, which was followed by Sands Cotai Central and The Parisian Macao.

Although Sheldon Adelson started his wealth in the United States, it was through his investments in Macau that his fortune exploded. Casinos in Macau generated 63 per cent of the company’s revenue, which was US$13.7 billion, followed by Singapore, which accounted for 22 per cent of last year’s revenue, with the United States last.

“The truth is that he won more in Macau than in Las Vegas since 1988 when he acquired the Sands for 184 million dollars”, defended Pedro Cortés. Despite his death, defended Glenn McCartney, the legacy of Sheldon Adelson will continue in Macau because of the inauguration of yet another integrated resort of the group, Londoner in Macau, which represents a total investment of US$2.2 billion.

Blunt but reserved, Adelson was described as an old-fashioned political leader and stood out from the majority of American Jews, who have been traditional supporters of the Democratic Party for decades.

Sheldon Adelson financed several Republican political campaigns, coming to be considered as the “financial pillar of the Republican Party” and, in the last years of his life, he set several records of individual contributions.

Adelson was a staunch supporter of President Donald Trump and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu also reacted today to the death of Sheldon Adelson, guaranteeing that he “will be remembered forever” for his work to strengthen relations between the United States and Israel.

The Macau Government today (Wednesday) also expressed sorrow at the death of American casino tycoon, Sheldon Adelson, recalling that he helped make the city the world capital of gambling and “promoted the development” of one of the casino operators.

“The Macau SAR government has been informed by Sands China Co., Ltd. that its founder, president and CEO, Sheldon Gary Adelson, died today from illness,” reads the short statement from Macau authorities.

“Mr. Sheldon Adelson promoted the development of the company in Macau. The MSAR Government expresses its regret at the death of Mr. Sheldon Adelson and presents the family with heartfelt condolences”.