One of the preeminent entrepreneurs in the gaming industry today, Las Vegas Sands Chairman Adelson is recognized as an innovator and a leader. We are honored to name him Casino Journal's Gaming Executive of the Year.





There’s a story about the time when some of Sheldon Adelson’s executives, frustrated over a dispute with the boss concerning a directive he’d issued and then denied issuing, hid a tape recorder at their next meeting. As they hoped, the tape captured him in the contradiction, and in triumph they played it to him.

Adelson, completely unfazed, shot back: “Who are you going to believe, me or the tape?”

“He can make you sad, mad, joyous, satisfied, all in the same day,” says Michael Leven, the veteran hotelier who joined Las Vegas Sands last March as chief operating officer. Leven, who has presided over Days Inn, Americana and Holiday Inn Worldwide in his career, knows a thing or two himself about the leisure and hospitality industries, and he has known Adelson for years. His take on the fascinating character he has come to work for is endlessly interesting.

“I’m a big fan, a big critic, too,” he says. “But it’s a privilege to be part of this, it’s a privilege to work with him.”

Comdex alone would have secured Adelson’s place among the pre-eminent entrepreneurs of our time. As for his impact on gaming, it’s been well-told. He rewrote the book with his belief that conventions could remake casinos into midweek destinations. The Las Vegas we’ve known over most of the last decade would not have existed without him. The $1 billion of his own money he put into Las Vegas Sands in the fall of 2008 was critical to salvaging confidence in the industry in its darkest hour. What he’s accomplished in Macau and Singapore is nothing short of spectacular, the billions he’s harnessed behind the idea that he can globalize the Las Vegas he reinvented. If somehow this fails, and for a moment there about a year and a half ago it looked like it might, he will have failed spectacularly. But that’s how it is with the man. If he believes he’s right he bets the house.

“I think at this point it’s clear: He’s an innovator, a leader, a man of great conviction,” says Deutsche Bank analyst Andrew Zarnett.

Adelson’s own thoughts on the matter are revealing.

“Leadership is not given to you. Leadership is an opportunity to achieve on your own. You can be a manager without being a leader. Like a general in the army. By virtue of time spent you wind up with some stars on your epaulettes, and you’re the boss. … Now if you don’t have any stars on your epaulettes to be a leader you have to be a visionary. You have to envision a situation in which the whole team makes progress. The second thing is you have to be able to communicate it to your constituents. And the third thing you have to do is implement. If you can’t do those things well you’re not a leader. Because to be a leader you have to get people to follow you: ‘If we travel down this road together we’re both going to be successful with what we want in life.’ … That makes you a leader.”

We could not have identified anyone more deserving of the title “Gaming Executive of the Year,” and we’re honored that he has accepted it.

             

On the subject of leadership, some of the best minds in gaming in the Northeast are gathering in Tarrytown, N.Y., later this month for the ninth annual New York Gaming Summit.

The Empire State is home to a machine gambling market that has quietly grown into a billion-dollar business, and when things eventually get sorted in New York City and the Catskills it stands to get a whole lot bigger. To learn more, get to the beautiful Hudson River Valley on June 21 and 22. All the information you need for registration and accommodations is at www.nysummit.com.

With the award of Aqueduct’s racino license off on yet another of its byzantine political twists, we thought it time to take a closer look ourselves. Our coverage begins on Page 30.