Sheldon Adelson: Self-Made Billionaire

Sheldon Adelson

"An entrepreneur is born with the mentality to take risks, though there are several important characteristics: courage, faith in yourself, and above all, even when you fail, to learn from failure and get up and try again." ~Sheldon Adelson

Sheldon Adelson is a self-made billionaire who made his fortune through the creation of several highly-successful casinos in Las Vegas, Macau, and Singapore. He has set the bar high for those who wish to follow in his footsteps. To learn more about how this casino mogul reached his billionaire status, please continue reading this detailed biography.

Early Life

Sheldon Adelson was born in the Dorchester neighborhood of Boston, Massachusetts, in the middle of the Great Depression. His father, an immigrant from Lithuania, was a taxi driver who sold advertisements on the side. His mother, an immigrant from Wales, was a business owner who ran a small knitting shop. His parents instilled in him the importance of working hard at an early age, encouraging him to get a job the day he turned 12 years old.

The first job he ever had was selling newspapers on the street corners; it didn't pay much money, but it did allow him to save up some money for college. He enrolled at the City College of New York in 1951 to pursue a degree in finance. He did well in school, but he chose to drop out after his sophomore year to join the US Army.

After serving in the military, he started working as a court stenographer on Wall Street. While transcribing various court hearings and court cases, he was meeting new people and making connections in the business world. He used one of those connections to get a job as a mortgage broker and investment advisor; it was through this job that he earned his first million dollars.

Now that he had some starting capital to work with, he started investing in real estate and a variety of small businesses he believed had a chance to make him a fortune. Among those businesses was the American International Travel Service, which grew from a start-up to a multi-million-dollar business in just a few short years.

In 1978, Adelson decided to invest in himself. He started the COMDEX computer convention, where insiders in the computer industry would gather to present their products to potential buyers. As computers were still very new, it was a risky business to get in to. Alderson never shied away from a challenge, though. He slaved over this company for years, and by the time he sold it, it was worth over $500 million.

It was while working on COMDEX that he met and married a woman named Sandra. They were very happy at the beginning of their relationship, spending a lot of their time traveling to vacation hotspots all over Europe and South America. They started having issues after being told by a specialist that they would be unable to conceive a child; this really put a strain on their relationship. Since they couldn't have any children of their own, they decided to adopt. They adopted 2 sons, Mitchell and Gary, and 1 daughter, Shelley. Even with several new children to care for, the couple still couldn't seem to connect. After living apart for several months, they officially got divorced in 1988.

Impact on the World of Gambling

To keep his mind off the divorce, Adelson started looking for new business ideas and happened to stumble upon an opportunity in the gambling industry. He purchased the Sands Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas, as it was on the market at a reasonable price. He initially had plans to refurbish it, but he changed his mind when he discovered that it needed millions of dollars' worth of repairs. He tore it down and started designing a brand-new casino instead.

The Venetian, as it would later be called, was created to reflect Venice, Italy. The lobby of the Venetian contains 25-foot-tall columns made of authentic Botticino marble that was imported straight from Italy. There is also a replica Campanile Tower on the Venetian's property that is only 8 feet shorter than the original one in Venice. If those features don't make you feel like you're in Italy, then the Gondola rides available on the resort's canal sure will.

Adelson wanted the Venetian to be more than just a place to gamble; he wanted it to be a one-stop destination for its visitors. Once completed, it had over 4,000 rooms, a 120,000-square-foot casino, 30 restaurants, a full-service spa, a luxury theater, and several retail shops. This casino officially opened in 1999, attracting people from all over the world.

After seeing what a huge success the Venetian was, Adelson decided he wanted to create another casino. He got word that the island of Macau was going to start issuing licenses to new casinos, and he wanted to be the first build over there. At the time, most of the casinos in Macau were in warehouse-style facilities. They were simple and efficient but not glamorous by any means.

The Sands Macau was the first Las Vegas-style casino to enter the city. Its modern layout and luxurious amenities made it very appealing. Adelson's $265 million casino would pay for itself in just a little over 9 months. Since Sands Macau opened, other casinos in the area have raised their standards. They started paying closer attention to detail, adding amenities and entertainment to their once-plain casinos. Now, Macau has hundreds of casinos that are of extremely high quality, and it is quickly becoming one of the hottest gambling destinations in the world.

Thanks to the revenue Adelson made from both the Venetian and the Sands Macau, he was officially a billionaire. After earning his place on Forbes' richest of the rich list, Adelson said, "I never thought about becoming wealthy. It never crossed my mind. What really motivated me was to try to accomplish something."

Adelson's desire to accomplish something never seemed to end. Even after reaching billionaire status, Adelson was still eager to build more casinos. In addition to building several other casinos in Las Vegas and Macau, he also acquired a license to build one in Singapore. $5.5 billion later, and the Marina Bay Sands Hotel and Casino would be open for business. After it was finished, it had over 2,500 rooms and multiple restaurants, theaters, and retail stores.


Adelson considers himself to be a Republican and has donated million of dollars to various members of the Republican party over the years. During the 2012 election alone, he donated over $100 million. Seeing how generous he was, candidates for the 2016 election worked hard for his approval and support. He donated to several Republican candidates, giving the most financial support to Donald Trump.

Adelson is very vocal about his political views. He is against the legalization of marijuana, as he believes it is a gateway drug. He lost his son, Mitchell, to drug overdose in the early 2010s. Mitchell first tried marijuana when he was just a teenager; Adelson believes this opened the door for him to try other drugs like cocaine and heroin. In 2014, he gave $5.5 million to the Drug-Free Florida campaign in hopes that Florida would choose not to legalize marijuana. He has donated millions more to similar causes all over the United States.

Even though he has made a substantial amount of money from casinos and the gambling industry, he is opposed to the legalization of online gambling. He believes it will cause too many Americans to become addicted, leading to increased debt problems and other serious issues. He created the AstroTurf lobbying group, a coalition to stop online gambling, to warn others of its potential dangers.


Adelson eventually got remarried to a beautiful woman named Miriam, who encouraged him to give more of his money to charity. The couple launched the Adelson Foundation in 2007. They are very passionate about helping Israel and the Jewish community, as Miriam is of Jewish descent. Through this foundation, the couple has donated approximately $140 million to Birthright Israel, a not-for-profit organization that pays for Jewish-Americans to travel to Israel and learn about their Jewish heritage.

They also donated $3 million to Hebrew SeniorLife, a senior citizen living community in Massachusetts, so that they can make the necessary updates to their housing facilities. In addition to that, they give millions of dollars each year to the Macabee Task Force, which is a group of people that travel to different colleges in Israel and around the world to educate students on anti-Semitism and provide colleges with resources to prevent it.

Adelson and his wife even started a private school in Las Vegas, called the Adelson Educational Campus, which strives to provide a top-notch education to its students. While you do not have to be Jewish to attend, they do integrate Jewish values into the curriculum. Most students qualify for tuition assistance, as Adelson believes that even students from low-income families deserve a great education.

Outside of Israel and the Jewish community, Adelson and his wife generously support a variety of medical research projects. Specifically, they fund collaborative, research-model studies in the areas of immunology, neurology, and oncology. They are always looking for new opportunities to fund cutting-edge medical research and encourage people to apply for their grant.

Wrap Up

Adelson is now in his mid-80s and is showing no signs of slowing down. His net worth is currently at $42.7 billion, and it's still on the rise. He visits the casinos he owns often and is continually looking for ways to improve them. We cannot say for sure what Adelson's future holds, but we are thankful for the impact he has had on the gambling industry so far, and we hope he changes his mind about online gambling as time goes on.
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