Sheldon Adelson, billionaire casino owner, philanthropist and political megadonor, has died. He was 87.

Adelson was founder, chairman and CEO of gaming giant Las Vegas Sands, whose portfolio includes the Venetian Resort and Sands Expo in Las Vegas and the Marina Bay Sands in Singapore, as well as several Macau properties under its Sands China Ltd. arm.

In a statement released on Tuesday, Las Vegas Sands confirmed Adelson's passing, attributing his death to "complications related to treatment for non-Hodgkin's lymphoma."

"Mr. Adelson was the first employee of Las Vegas Sands -- 'Team Member Number One,' he liked to say," Las Vegas Sands said in a statement. "While his business credentials -- having started or been involved in more than 50 different enterprises -- are unquestioned, his dedication to philanthropy and commitment to his family will truly be his legacy."

The son of immigrant parents and a Boston native, Adelson's Las Vegas career began with the launch of the computer trade show Comdex in 1979.

Ten years later, Adelson and his business partners purchased the Sands Hotel in Vegas, opening the adjacent Sands Expo and Convention Center in 1990.

Venetian Las Vegas [Credit: S-F/Shutterstock.com]
Adelson opened the Italian-themed casino-hotel the Venetian Las Vegas in 1999, inspired by his 1996 honeymoon trip to Venice. Photo Credit: S-F/Shutterstock.com

In 1996, after honeymooning in Venice with his wife, Dr. Miriam Adelson, Adelson was inspired to bring the romantic atmosphere of Venice to Las Vegas. He demolished the Sands Hotel, making room for the Italian-themed casino-hotel the Venetian Las Vegas, which opened in 1999.

In 2004, Adelson and Las Vegas Sands began to make inroads into Asia, opening the Sands Macao in Macau, China. The company went on to later add the Venetian Macao, the Plaza Macao, the Parisian Macao and Sands Cotai Central, as well as the Marina Bay Sands in Singapore in 2010.

Expansion also continued in Vegas, with Las Vegas Sands adding its Palazzo tower next door to the Venetian in 2007.

In addition to his success within the gaming sector, Adelson become known for his sizable donations to Jewish causes and political campaigns.

According to NPR, Adelson and his wife gave around half a billion dollars over the past eight years to Republican and U.S. conservative campaigns. They also backed conservative campaigns and causes in Israel, with Adelson credited with the launch of Israel Today, a free daily newspaper, as well as financial contributions to the country's Birthright Israel program, which provides global Jewish youth with guided trips to Israel.

In a statement, Israel prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu called Adelson "one of the greatest donors in history to the Jewish people, Zionism, settlement and the State of Israel," reported Reuters.

Likewise, Miriam Adelson credited her husband with crafting "the course of nations."

"Some of the historical changes that he helped effect -- in the United States, Israel and elsewhere -- are publicly known," she said in a statement. "Others are not. For Sheldon, recognition of his own indispensable role was unimportant. What counted was that good be done. He cared about standing up for what was right, even if that meant standing alone."

A funeral for Adelson will be held in Israel, with plans for a memorial service held in Las Vegas to be announced at a later date.

This story was updated to clarify that the Birthright Israel program is open to global Jewish youth. 

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