LAS VEGAS (AP) — Casino mogul Sheldon Adelson urged students to challenge the status quo, made a moral case against online gambling and extolled Republican virtues during a talk about leadership Monday at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas.
Adelson, the CEO of Las Vegas Sands and the ninth richest man in the world according to Forbes magazine, was part of the school's "Conversations on Being Successful" series. The company's president and chief operating officer, Michael Leven, also spoke.
"Every time I succeeded, it was when I did something different," said Adelson, 80. "Be willing to dream, and above all, be willing to take risks."
Sands operates the Venetian and Palazzo resorts and the Sands Expo and Convention Center in Las Vegas, the fourth largest convention center in the country and a project he developed after finding Las Vegas' meeting space offerings were lacking, he said.
But the majority of the company's revenue comes from the lucrative Chinese gambling enclave of Macau, which dwarfs Las Vegas in casino income.
Macau issued a limited number of gambling licenses in the early 2000s, and Sands was the first U.S. casino corporation to enter the market and build up the Cotai Strip tourism district. The land where booming casinos now stand was once partially submerged swampland.
"Everybody thought I was going to go into bankruptcy except me," he said of the development.
The company delivered growth in every sector of business in Macau in the quarter ending March 31, and is on track to add thousands more hotel rooms there.
After sharing his rags-to-riches story — and quipping that his family probably couldn't even afford the rags — he turned the discussion toward his well-publicized opposition to online gambling. His father came home from work some nights after gambling away his paycheck horse racing, Adelson said.
"I see what exploitation of the poor and vulnerable people does to a family. I don't want a casino to be put on every kitchen table or iPad," said Adelson, who is bankrolling the Coalition to Stop Internet Gambling. "I know I'm a Republican and I'm not supposed to be socially sensitive, but I am socially sensitive."
Adelson and his wife, Miriam, are heavy-hitting philanthropists, donating large sums to medical research and the Birthright Israel Foundation, which funds educational trips to Israel for young Jewish people.
In April, Las Vegas Sands announced a $7 million donation to UNLV's Harrah Hotel College as part of its Sands Cares corporate philanthropy initiative. The money will be applied toward a $50 million academic building dubbed Hospitality Hall and a proposed Center for International Hospitality and Gaming Education, which will offer courses for managers and executives in the hotel industry.
Adelson is also a powerhouse political donor, pouring an estimated $100 million into Republican campaigns in 2012.
Losses during that election apparently haven't dampened his fervor for the party. Asked by an attendee how preserve America's economic dominance, he didn't skip a beat.
"Put the Republicans in," he said.