Achieving Immortality: Which Gaming Icons Left Their Mark in 2017 Through Charity, Politics, and Sports

Posted on: December 26, 2017, 05:00h. 

Last updated on: November 30, 2017, 03:45h.

From powermongers like Sheldon Adelson to the billionaire Fertitta brothers, 2017 saw some gutsy and passionate moves by the gaming industry’s most illustrious movers and shakers.

gaming icons Sheldon Adelson Las Vegas
Sheldon Adelson started the conversation of bringing the Oakland Raiders to Las Vegas, just one of 2017’s crowning moments in the gaming industry. But the Sands CEO didn’t get to reap the glory when all was said and done. (Image: Chip Somodevilla/Getty)

Whether it was millions of dollars in donations in times of crisis and natural disaster, political influencing in DC through campaign contributions, or multibillion-dollar deals towards professional sports teams, the gaming icons were busy in 2017.

Here’s a look back at some of the legacies these moguls created.

Tragedy at Mandalay Bay

On October 1, gunman Stephen Paddock opened fire from the 32nd floor of the Mandalay Bay onto the Route 91 Harvest country music festival crowd below. Some ten minutes later, 58 victims had lost their lives from his heavy artillery fire.

The casino industry quickly stepped up to provide relief. Billionaire Sheldon Adelson, through his company Las Vegas Sands and the Adelson Family Foundation, gave $4 million to help victims. MGM Resorts, parent company to Mandalay Bay, gave $3 million.

Stations Casinos, owned by Frank and Lorenzo Fertitta, gave $1 million, as did the UFC and Las Vegas-based retailer Zappos, with the latter also offering to cover every victim’s funeral costs.

Fertittas Play Ball

Frank and Lorenzo Fertitta, who sold the UFC in 2016 for $4.2 billion, gave $10 million to University of Las Vegas, Nevada (UNLV) to help fund a new football training center. Along with Caesars, Sands, MGM, Boyd Gaming, and Konami Gaming, the Fertittas also gave $2.5 million to UNLV to help build Hospitality Hall, a new facility for the school’s top-ranked hospitality program.

Frank and Lorenzo’s third cousin, Tilman Fertitta, also made headlines, but in even richer fashion. The Golden Nugget owner and Texas native announced this fall that he was purchasing the NBA’s Houston Rockets for $2.2 billion.

Friends in High Places

Several Las Vegas gaming moguls got behind Donald Trump, a former casino owner himself, to help his ultimately successful bid for the White House. Adelson gave tens of millions of dollars to the Trump ticket, and is thought to have been the Republican Party’s biggest donor in 2016.

The Presidential Inaugural Committee, which was partially funded by casino kingpin money, was instrumental in Trump’s first important events as leader of the free world.

Adelson paid $5 million to help cover January’s inauguration costs. Steve Wynn picked up the $729,000 tab for the Make America Great Again! concert, fellow billionaire, friend, and Treasure Island casino owner Phil Ruffin donated over $1 million, and the Fertitta clan again stepped up, giving $707,000.

On the charitable front, this past fall, $3 million from the Presidential Inaugural Committee was used to aid in hurricane recovery relief in Texas, Florida, and the Caribbean.

Walking His Talk

Adelson usually gets what he wants, but in 2017, he walked away from being permanently involved with the NFL’s Raiders in Las Vegas. Adelson was the man who initiated the push with team owner Mark Davis to bring the franchise from Oakland to Sin City.

The Las Vegas Sands CEO had pledged $650 million of his own money in building a stadium, in what many called his “legacy project.” But earlier this year, Adelson left the building, after he learned that Davis and Clark County had reached a lease agreement without his involvement.