What did Sheldon Adelson do beyond fighting to ban online poker?

Jon Sofen
Published by:
Posted on 01/20/2021

Sheldon Adelson wasn’t just an anti-online poker crusader, fighting to ensure Americans can’t play poker on the internet. In fact, those lobbying efforts aren’t even what he’s most known for outside the poker world.

Adelson passed away last week at age 87 following a year-long battle against non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. The company he owns and founded — Las Vegas Sands Corp. — had announced just days earlier that he was taking a leave of absence from his role as CEO to seek cancer treatment. That treatment was ineffective and he died January 11.

Adelson’s life was full of successes and some failures. Along the way, he built a net worth of more than $35 billion and rubbed many people the wrong way, and not just those in the poker world who were angry at him for attempting to get online poker banned in the U.S.

Sheldon Adelson most known for his casinos

Sheldon Adelson founded Las Vegas Sands, which became one of the top casino brands in the world, in 1988. He remained an active CEO right up until his death, 32 years later.

The casino giant owns numerous major casinos around the world, but its most prominent property is the Venetian and Palazzo on the fabulous Las Vegas Strip.

The CEO may have pulled some strings to limit legal online poker in the U.S., but he did operate one of the top poker rooms in the world at Venetian. And he was known to pay his employees above industry standard rates, along with providing exceptional benefits.

When Las Vegas casinos were forced to close down for nearly three months in 2020 due to COVID-19, Adelson ensured his employees were taken care of financially even though they were out of work.

What he did to anger many

Sheldon Adelson angered many in the poker community. But he also had some detractors in society as a whole. That is because he was a hardcore Republican lobbyist who used his wealth and power to influence policy, not just issues related to online gambling.

Adelson was one of the top GOP megadonors for years. In 2016 he contributed heavily to Donald Trump’s presidential campaign. He did so again in 2020 as Trump sought reelection.

In 2015, he purchased the Las Vegas Review-Journal, Las Vegas’ most popular newspaper. Many readers claim the newspaper shifted to a more conservative-biased approach after Adelson acquired the paper.

Adelson had many detractors in the poker community and Democrats who disliked him for lobbying to push through a conservative political agenda. But he also had many adoring fans.

His wife, Miriam Adelson, received the Presidential Medal of Freedom from President Trump in 2019. Sheldon Adelson was beloved by many of his 50,000 employees. That’s what happens when you pay well and provide great benefits.

He also had some fans in Israel, mostly among those of conservative values. The Jewish casino owner ran a newspaper in Israel and lobbied to push a conservative agenda there as well. The casino owner also donated hundreds of millions to a Jewish charity called Birthright Israel, which funds youth trips to Israel. In the U.S., he funded the Miriam and Sheldon G. Adelson Research Foundation in his hometown of Boston.

From 2010 to 2020, Adelson and his wife donated more than $500 million to the Republican party and its candidates. He was the largest donor ($5 million) to Trump’s inauguration ceremony in 2016.

Featured image source: Flickr