In 2007, three years after gaining a toehold in Macau with a $265 million casino, Mr. Adelson opened his next big thing: the Venetian Macao, a $2.4 billion, 39-story hotel and casino — the world’s seventh largest building, with a gaming paradise almost as big as 10 football fields. Asia’s fanatic gamblers poured in, and Mr. Adelson multiplied his wealth many times over.
He built other casino-hotels in Macau, Singapore and Pennsylvania, and added the Las Vegas Palazzo. In 2013, he dropped plans for a $30 billion resort near Madrid after failing to win Spanish concessions. But he planned casinos in Japan, an untapped gambling mega-market, and, with billions at stake, lobbied hard against online gambling.
His company faced lawsuits, investigations and accusations of bribing Chinese and American officials and of tolerating prostitutes and the Mafia. Mr. Adelson denied the allegations and was not personally implicated. Nor was his company convicted of serious wrongdoing, although it paid a $47 million fine in 2013 to avoid criminal charges in a money-laundering investigation.
The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee once issued a “sincere” apology after insinuating that he had profited from prostitution.
Sheldon Gary Adelson was born in Boston on Aug. 4, 1933, one of four children of Arthur and Sarah (Tonkin) Adelson. His father was descended from Jewish Ukrainian and Lithuanian ancestors; his mother had immigrated from England, and one of the boy’s forebears had been a Welsh coal miner. In the family’s two-room flat in the Dorchester section of Boston, the parents slept on a mattress and the children on the floor. Sheldon, a go-getter, sold newspapers and at 16 had candy-vending machines in factories and gas stations.
He fought anti-Semitism and toughs in the streets and at Roxbury Memorial High School. “We had to go to school with at least four kids,” he told Forbes in 2012. “The Irish kids came out of the bushes and tenements with rubber hoses and chains and brass knuckles.”
Mr. Adelson attended the City College of New York in the 1950s but dropped out after less than two years and joined the Army. He later sold toiletries, magazine ads and windshield de-icers; brokered mortgages, developed condominiums and booked charter tours. After his trade show successes, he bought the Sands Hotel and Casino for $128 million.