Anti-online poker crusader Sheldon Adelson dies

Jon Sofen
Published by:
Posted on 01/12/2021

Sheldon Adelson, the man partially responsible for stringent online poker laws in the United States, died of cancer on Monday. The Las Vegas casino owner was 87.

Adelson was worth $34.8 billion as of January 2021, according to Forbes, making him one of the 20 richest persons in the world. He was also one of the most prominent Republican megadonors. The late casino mogul contributed millions of dollars to Donald Trump’s campaign in 2016 and 2020.

In 2019, Adelson revealed that he was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, a form of cancer that originates in the lymphatic system and spreads throughout the body. The disease has an overall five-year survival rate of 72%. But that varies based on age and stage of the cancer when first diagnosed.

Adelson is most known for founding Las Vegas Sands in 1988 and building that company into a casino empire. His company owns and operates the luxurious Venetian and Palazzo casino resorts in Las Vegas, along with numerous properties in Asia.

Last week, the Las-Vegas-based casino company announced Adelson would take a leave of absence from his role as CEO to receive cancer treatment. Just a few days later, he passed away of complications from that treatment.

“His impact on the industry will be everlasting,” the company said in a public statement.

Adelson made quite an impact on the gambling industry. He built one of the most recognizable and profitable casino brands in the world. Venetian is one of the top casinos in Las Vegas and caters to the upscale crowd.

Sheldon Adelson fought to ban online poker

Adelson also impacted the poker industry in a way that wasn’t so positive, at least not for the players. Adelson used his wealth and power to force anti-online poker legislation in the U.S. for many years.

He lined the pockets of politicians as he attempted to influence their decisions. Adelson helped create the Restoration of America’s Wire Act (RAWA), a push to make online gambling illegal in all 50 states.

His efforts were in some ways successful, but failed in others. Although RAWA was inevitably shut down by the U.S. Congress, paving ways for individual states to determine online poker legality, his lobbying efforts prevented legislation at the federal level.

Instead, the federal government left it up to individual states to decide if they want legal online poker or not. Since the 2011 Black Friday scandal, only four states have legal poker sites in operation, with Michigan soon to join the party. That’s a small victory for Adelson, who hoped to have internet gambling banned everywhere. But he’s gotten what he wants so far in 45 of 50 states.

Adelson’s Venetian casino is home to one of the best and most popular poker rooms in the world. Some poker players refuse to play at the property due to its affiliation with the lobbyist. But others simply can’t stay away from the poker room’s juicy tournaments and cash games.

Featured image source: Flickr