Tightening Grip: Sheldon Adelson tops Casino Rich List, Even as Many Owners and CEOs Lose Millions to COVID-19 Pandemic

Author Thomas Wolf
April 16, 2020 3 min read

This week, Forbes released its annual list of billionaires, and once again, Sheldon Adelson of the Sands casino empire is the highest-ranking figure from the gambling sector.

With a personal wealth of just over $28 billion, Adelson’s accounts put him ahead of such high-profile billionaires as Tesla owner Elon Musk, News Corporation and Fox News CEO Rupert Murdoch, and Russian oligarch and soccer club owner Alisher Usmanov.

That makes Adelson 28th on the list of the world’s 5000-plus billionaires, which is still some way off the top spots.

With a total wealth of just under $97 billion, even the 22 casino billionaires on the list—including Macau investor Lui Che Woo and online casino developer Novomatic’s founder Johann Graf—can’t collectively match the individual fortunes of Amazon owner Jeff Bezos ($113 billion) or Microsoft’s Bill Gates ($98 billion).

Just last year, things were a little different. The 22 casino billionaires were worth a staggering $125 billion in January 2019.

With the effects of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic expected to hit the sources of casinos’ wealth exceptionally hard, share prices in gambling companies have tanked around the world in recent weeks.

Adelson himself was estimated to be worth over $40 billion just a few months ago, and five ultra-rich individuals who made their wealth through gambling have dropped off the list entirely since last year.

Shares Down, Charity Up

“Of the billionaires who remain, 51 percent are poorer than they were last year. In raw terms, the world’s billionaires are worth $8 trillion, down $700 billion from 2019,” concluded Forbes, as we move into the second quarter of what will be a tough year for untold millions of people across the globe.

In a charitable move, Mr. Adelson also recently chartered a private Boeing 747 to bring two million 3M respirator masks from China to the USA for use by frontline healthcare workers dealing with the pandemic in both Nevada and New York.

Las Vegas Sands has also donated thousands of food pallets to citizens in need in its home state of Nevada and even purchased 20,000 COVID-19 test kits for both business and charitable use.

“This pandemic has called on each of us to use every ability we have to help those most impacted by the crisis,” the Forbes list mogul said in a statement.

“We’ll Get Through This”

It’s not just Adelson and his Las Vegas Sands empire that are losing revenue and also upping their support for communities affected by COVID-19.

With physical casinos, betting shops, and other gambling venues across the world closed up for the immediate future, many are left wondering when their revenue streams will re-open.

However, without enough supplies for financially hit families or medical equipment for those fighting the symptoms of the respiratory disease that has killed more than 150,000 people across the world in just four months, there may not be enough money in the economy to keep people gambling when the pandemic is over.

MGM, Caesars, and Wynn Resorts have all stepped up in recent weeks, providing millions of meals for hungry mouths as well as masks for those who need to work despite the risk of infection.

Of course, online gambling may help plug part of the gap. However, that’s not enough to help many companies who rely on sports betting or physical casino customers.

William Hill, for example, has canceled the bonuses and dividends for all its shareholders and directors this year. Joe Asher, the CEO of the British company’s US sports betting division, even gave up over 90% of his six-figure salary to help his 600 furloughed employees during this difficult time.

“William Hill, a British company, has been in business 86 years and survived the bombing in World War II and everything that’s happened since,” Asher told a Reno newspaper, “so we’ll get through this—but it’s going to be hard.”

Keep checking our pages for the latest updates on the effects of the coronavirus crisis on the gambling world, plus many other news stories.

Author Thomas Wolf


Thomas Wolf

396 articles

Thomas Wolf is our editor in chief. With an extensive background in online gambling (both working for casino operators and game studios) as well as an MBA from the Thunderbird School of Global Management, he's a proper authority on online casinos. When not running the day to day operations or reviewing new operators Thomas is a blackjack aficionado with some seriously big wins recorded at land-based casinos in both Las Vegas, Monaco and Macau.
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