Perhaps because the two great gambling cities of the world, Macau and Las Vegas, were largely criminal enterprises in their youth, the world of casino owners had an air of romantic disreputability about it until around the 1990s when ex-mobsters like Benny Binion and handed the electronic key-cards over to a new breed: the casino mogul.
Casinos are now owned as part of vast portfolios of entertainment companies which offer integrated resort entertainment to not just high rollers, but to anyone booking a vacation, looking to have a weekend of fun, or wanting to catch a show.
The industry has changed beyond recognition in little more than a generation.
Here are some of the biggest names in the industry.
Lawrence Ho’s father Ho Hung-sun, better known as Stanley Ho, held a state monopoly on gambling rights in the Vegas of the East: Macau.
Stanley Ho, now 96, made a fortune smuggling luxury goods into China from Macau during World War II. After a stroke in 2009 Stanley Ho started to hand over both his assets and the baton to the next generation and Lawrence became the CEO of Melco Crown Entertainment and Melco International Development.
The company is currently called Melco Resorts and Entertainment and famously operates the City of Dreams in Macau, among many other properties.
He is considered one of the game changers who are building the new post-monopoly Macau owning one of the six gambling concessions that currently make up the industry over there.
He also used his movie industry connections to bring Martin Scorsese over to shoot “The Audition” a short film starring Robert De Niro and Leonardo DiCaprio in his Manila and Macau casinos which makes for a slightly surreal watch.
He is not just a casino mogul now, but at a shade over 40, is likely to be one of the biggest names for years to come.
In the 2001 remake of Ocean’s Eleven three huge, recognisable, casinos (The Bellagio, The Mirage, and the MGM Grand) agree to be portrayed as the hapless victims of a crime and as being owned by a villainous businessman played by Andy Garcia.
Local Vegas TV station KNTV remembers Kirk Kerkorian.
The only reason this could happen was because of the extraordinarily diverse portfolio of one Kirk Kerkorian.
Kerkorian was the father of the mega-resort and built the largest casino in Vegas three times out-doing himself again and again. But through his holding company Tricinda he also owned the MGM movie studio, which has passed in and out of his hands a number of times along with a couple of smaller outfits like United Artists and Orion films.
He also dabbled in aviation and car manufacture, trying once to take over Chrysler. All in all, he amassed a net worth of about $4 billion.
He died in 2015 at the grand old age of 98 – clearly being a casino mogul is good for your health!
Where Kerkorian’s portfolio seems wide ranging and adventurous Adelson’s seems far more focused. Forbes listed his value as being a little over $37 billion in November of last year.
He owns casinos in Vegas, Pennsylvania and Macau including the grand Venetian resorts in both Sin City and Macau.
He owns the Las Vegas newspaper The Las Vegas Review-Journal and is famously a huge donor to the Republican party and Donald Trump’s campaign.
His Las Vegas Sands empire is founded on offering the biggest and best entertainment in any region they are operating in, and Adelson’s decision to pile into Macau has paid off handsomely.
It is no surprise to see him eyeing up new markets in burgeoning casino hotbeds like Japan and Brazil.
This octogenarian entrepreneur isn’t done yet.
Last on the list, asset wise Steve Wynn is a relatively small fish when it comes to dollar value. His estimated net worth is only around $2.5 billion. But for influence in the casino industry he is a latter-day Godfather of Gambling.
Every penny the other people on this list earn through their Vegas and Macau resorts owes something to the influence he has had on the casino industry.
Wynn Resorts, his company began with a single casino: the Golden Nugget on the Vegas Strip. He bought a controlling interest in the 90s, gave the place a thorough overhaul then – in a pattern that was to become his trademark move – flipped it for quick profit and bought a new place.
The most familiar names in Vegas branding passed through his hands: the Bellagio, the Mirage, the Encore, and Treasure Island were all his to begin with then passed into the hands of other big time players.
On top of that he has a pair of Wynn hotels that he owns one each in Vegas and Macau.
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