Sheldon Adelson is a figure well-known to those keeping their eye on the development of online poker regulation in the USA. If you happen not to know much about Adelson, he is a real rags-to-riches story. He was born in 1933 to a family that had to struggle to make ends meet. He was, however, determined to succeed, and by the time he was 12, he already had his first business, selling toiletries. After finishing college, he moved back to Boston in the 1960s and, investing in various companies, managed to make his fortune. But by the end of the decade his business took a dive in a stock market decline.
In the 1970s, after looking for the most suitable business venture to go on with, he started a trade show for the computer industry. In 1979, he created COMDEX (Computer Dealers Expo) at the time the personal computer industry was just taking off. By 1987, COMDEX would become the biggest trade show in Vegas, netting the group $250 million.
In 1988, Adelson and his partners bought Sands Casino and, in 1995, after selling COMDEX, they started building the $1.5 billion project – Venetian Resort Hotel Casino. Despite difficulties, the resort opened in 1999 with huge success.
With the start of the new millennium, Adelson started to expand his influence to the political arena by lending his wealth to candidates of his liking. And this is how he came to be an important figure in the battle for regulated online poker in the states as well. One would think that a person who made a lot of his fortune from casinos would be all for regulated online gambling, but Adelson is, in fact, one of its most prominent adversaries.
Adelson, with almost $39 billion to his name, is the eighth-wealthiest person in the world, according to Forbes magazine. He is bankrolling the Coalition to Stop Internet Gaming, a nonprofit group that’s pushing Congress to outlaw the business in part by overriding states that have legalized it. www.lasvegassun.com
In his most recent public appearance at UNLV, he gave a speech to hundreds of students warning them of the dangers of online gambling. Adelson invokes the idea that bringing casinos to every home via personal computers and cell phones is actually preying on those people who can least afford it.
He completely rejects the idea that he is battling regulation because he is afraid that it could hurt his own business. Instead, he remains adamant that his entire roll in the campaign is fueled only by his social awareness.
“I am in favor of gambling,” he said. “I am in favor of it as a form of entertainment. But I am not in favor of it exploiting the world’s most vulnerable people. I know I am a Republican and I am not supposed to be socially sensitive, but I am very socially sensitive.” www.lasvegassun.com
When a casino mogul tries to drive a line in the sand between gambling as entertainment and gambling that represents a danger for society, the public is, naturally, skeptical – to say the least. This doesn’t faze Adelson, however, as he stands his ground, giving his full support to the group battling against regulated online gambling in the states. All things considered, even those amongst us who truly want to believe in people’s good intentions have our doubts. It would be nice to believe that the billionaire is truly doing all this simply because he feels “socially responsible,” but it would also be naïve to accept the idea that his financial bottom line has absolutely nothing to do with it.