The far-reaching effects of the coronavirus outbreak could reach the worlds of Jewish philanthropy and U.S. politics, with Sheldon Adelson’s casino empire the latest to be impacted by the contagion.
On Tuesday, Ho Iat Seng, the chief executive for the Chinese territory of Macau – the world’s biggest gambling hub – asked all casinos there to suspend their operations for two weeks, in an effort to curb the spread of the virus.
The decision came following a huge drop in the number of tourists visiting the special administrative region, and caused the stocks of companies with casinos in Macau to slip on Tuesday. This included an 11 percent drop for Sands China, co-owned by Adelson’s Las Vegas Sands company.
There have been 10 confirmed cases of the pneumonia-like illness in Macau, which is a popular destination for tourists from both the Chinese mainland and around the world.
Adelson played a key role in creating the gambling empire in the territory, which, until 1999, had transitioned from being a Portuguese colony to Chinese. He is currently the largest investor in the peninsula.
After winning one of the first coveted gambling licenses in China for his Las Vegas Sands corporation nearly 20 years ago, he opened Sands Macau in 2004 – the same year the stock in his Las Vegas-based firm went public. This was followed by other resort hotels that helped turn Macau into the new gambling capital of the world.
A 2008 profile in the New Yorker estimated that Adelson’s transformation of Macau and the region multiplied his wealth 14 times over. It meant he went from being “merely rich” into a multibillionaire who was earning up to $1 million an hour. It also gave him the means to play “a significant role in U.S. foreign policy” and “Israel’s strategic decisions,” the profile wrote.