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Blasts From the Past

A look at the legacy and continuing influence of Las Vegas giants like Sheldon Adelson, Steve Wynn and Tony Marnell.

Blasts From the Past

Anyone who thought the death of Sheldon Adelson in February ended his influence on the company he founded was forced to think again last month. The sale of the Las Vegas assets of Las Vegas Sands—now known simply as “Sands”—demonstrated that the long shadow he cast over the company will probably be extended for quite some time.

Adelson was known for taking chances in his business career. After spending a decade building the Consumer Electronics Show, CES, to become the largest trade show in Las Vegas, he sold it at the peak of its value to get into the gaming business and introduce the concept of an integrated resort. The Venetian was an immediate success, which dwarfed the value of CES that funded its establishment in only a few years.

So when the sale of the Venetian, Palazzo and the Sands Expo Center was announced last month, it should have surprised no one, because Adelson clearly had the future of his company on his mind up until the moment he succumbed to the cancer that plagued him in his final years.

Now run by the able and loyal Rob Goldstein, son-in-law Patrick Dumont, and his partner in life, Miriam Adelson, the sale is hardly the end for Sands—it’s more likely a new beginning. It isn’t even an exit from the U.S., as the company has eyed Texas, Atlanta and New York City as possible homes for the unique integrated resorts it creates.

But the focus of the company—and the source of its vast revenues—continues to be Asia. With the Macau concessions up for renewal, the company will be a major player in the region far into the future—a future envisioned by the late Sheldon Adelson.

And if anyone thinks that his influence on U.S. and Israeli politics is over, I urge you to think again, as Miriam is as dedicated as Sheldon was to continuing to be a force on those areas. What about the charity work that Adelson so famously directed? Miriam’s share of the $6.25 billion Las Vegas purchase price will help a lot of worthy organizations and individuals.

The sale of the Sands Las Vegas assets was only one of several stories in the last month that make us realize that maybe the past is not that far behind us after all.

Sheldon’s friend Steve Wynn was back in the news last month for the first time in in a while. His exit from the company he founded, Wynn Resorts, was somewhat ignominious, but he has denied all the charges despite his withdrawal from the company.

Like Adelson, Wynn was always generous to a fault when he was in charge, and now in retirement, that tendency continues. Wynn began his life in central New York, and has donated $50 million from the Wynn Family Foundation to the town of Utica to build a much-needed hospital.

So maybe what we now know as the “cancel culture” is only temporary, and the good works associated with people will live on far beyond the expiration of the supposed scandal that brought them down.

And finally, another name from the past returned last month, the Marnell family. Tony Marnell was a renowned builder in Las Vegas, participating in the construction of many of the city’s most iconic properties including most of the casino resorts imagined by Wynn. The family designed, built and operated the Rio, a true icon of its time. And his son Anthony II was the principal behind M Resort, now owned by Penn National Gaming.

Last month, it was announced that the Marnell Companies will design the casino owned by Caesars Entertainment in Danville, Virginia. The Marnell signature used to mean something in gaming, so it’s great to see that influence will continue to be felt in gaming. The residents of Danville will clearly get a facility that will make its mark on the region.

They say that with age comes wisdom. I don’t know if that’s true or not, but I do know the future of gaming is inexorably tied to its past, and those who forget the past will face an uncertain future.

Roger Gros
Roger Gros is publisher of Global Gaming Business, the industry's leading gaming trade publication, and all its related publications. Prior to joining Global Gaming Business, Gros was president of Inlet Communications, an independent consulting firm. He was vice president of Casino Journal Publishing Group from 1984-2000, and held virtually every editorial title during his tenure. Gros was editor of Casino Journal, the National Gaming Summary and the Atlantic City Insider, and was the founding editor of Casino Player magazine. He was a co-founder of the American Gaming Summit and the Southern Gaming Summit conferences and trade shows. He is the author of the best-selling book, How to Win at Casino Gambling (Carlton Books, 1995), now in its fourth edition. Gros was named "Businessman of the Year" for 1998 by the Greater Atlantic City Chamber of Commerce, and received the Lifetime Achievement Award from the American Gaming Association in 2012.

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