The gambling world generates billions of dollars every year. The multi-millionaire casino owners own anything from hotels, cruise ships, retail shops, malls and restaurants to some of the most luxurious casinos from Las Vegas to Monte Carlo, not to mention online casinos. They are huge influencers in the gambling industry and their gaming halls attract millions every year, from ordinary recreational players to celebrities who gamble.
How much do casino owners make and what does it take to become the world’s richest casino owner? There’s a lot more to it than rolling the dice and hoping to get lucky. Casino empires are created by highly-skilled business players who know how to take calculated risks and multiply their money. Take a closer look.
Before his passing in 2021, Sheldon Adelson, the CEO and chairperson of Las Vegas Sands, was worth $29.8 billion. Born to a low-income family of immigrants, Adelson started his business career at 12, selling newspapers and becoming a millionaire at 30. The Las Vegas Sands, Adelson’s glittering showcase casino, makes over $30 million from casino table games and hospitality every day, giving it a higher value than all other US casinos put together. It’s undisputedly still one of the biggest casino companies globally, with its own apparel and expensive playing cards.
Adelson’s wealth grew from the launch of Comdex, a Las Vegas computer trade showcase in 1979, but casino operations would become his biggest source of capital. Interestingly, he didn’t launch into the gambling scene until he turned 55, when he and his partners bought the Las Vegas Sands Hotel and Casino for $128 million. Adelson demolished the Sands and, in its place, built the towering Las Vegas Venetian in 1999. With additions, it has since become one of the world’s largest hotel complexes.
Adelson’s empire grew to casinos in Macau, Singapore and China, earning half of its $14 billion profit in sales. His fortune grew to an estimated $1 million per hour for two years straight, earning him Forbes’ top rank on the 2013 Annual Biggest Winners list.
Texas business owner and television personality Tilman Fertitta started his wealth journey in the real estate sector. In 1988, Fertitta invested in and took over Landry, a Texas-based seafood restaurant and entertainment company. Once he took sole ownership, Fertitta expanded the business by buying other reputable restaurant chains like Saltgrass Steak House, Joe’s Crab Shack and Rainforest Cafe.
In 2005, Fertitta moved from his growing restaurant empire into the casino business, buying the Golden Nugget Hotel (one of the oldest gambling houses in Las Vegas) and casinos in Laughlin and Nevada for $295 million. Fertitta now owns three more Golden Nugget casinos.
The son of a seafood restaurateur, Fertitta had big ambitions from a young age. He started investing in the stock market while still at school and was on the way to owning his own business by his early twenties. In 2017, Forbes ranked him as the World’s Richest Restaurateur. He also bought the NBA team Houston Rockets in 2017. He is currently worth 8.8 billion dollars.
A late entry into the casino world at 60, Phil Ruffin started his gambling business after purchasing the Crystal Palace Resort in the Bahamas and then the Frontier Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas. He rebuilt it for $20 million, making it his first US-based casino. Having sold and made huge profits on these casinos, Ruffin bought the Treasure Island Hotel and Casino from MGM Mirage in 2009 for a cool $775 million.
Before that, Ruffin built his wealth by buying a series of convenience stores before venturing into the hospitality industry and settling into the casino world. Ruffin’s willingness to take risks and act on his customers’ complaints led to his casinos becoming an enormous success.
Ruffin is the youngest of five children of immigrant parents and is remembered at school for his athletic achievements. He was a wrestling champion who broke several school records and he earned a full-ride scholarship to Washburn University, but he eventually dropped out to start a business and became the first entrepreneur to bring self-service gas stations to Kansas. Now aged 88, Ruffin is worth $3.3 billion.
The Fertitta Brothers
The Fertitta Brothers, Lorenzo and Frank Fertitta III, cousins to Tilman Fertitta, were born into the casino world and the heirs of their father Frank Fertitta Jr’s gambling fortune and legacy. He worked in several casinos in Las Vegas before launching the Station Casinos in 1976.
After working alongside their father at Station Casinos, the Fertitta brothers steered the company to getting its IPO after their father retired. They raised another $294 million to become primary shareholders and co-founders of the expanded Stations Casinos Inc. As an early investment, the brothers bought the UFC martial arts promotion company for $2 million in 2001, eventually selling their shares in this business for a whopping sum of $4 billion.
While managing several casinos for other owners, Stations Inc. operates multiple hotel casinos like the notable Red Rock in Las Vegas and Sunset Station in Henderson, Nevada. Both brothers are worth $2.8 billion.
Elaine Wynn is the only woman among the world’s top wealthiest casino owners and one of the most powerful.
Wynn and her husband Steve started Mirage Resorts in 1973. It grew to include some iconic casinos like Treasure Island, The Mirage and Bellagio in Las Vegas; they eventually sold the business in 2000 for $6.4 billion. Shortly after, the Wynns launched the Flagship Hotel and Casino Wynn Las Vegas in April 2005. In 2010, the Wynns separated, dividing their 38% ownership in the Wynn Resorts. Following Steve’s resignation as CEO in 2018 and the sale of most of his shares, she became the second-largest shareholder of Wynn Resorts after her husband resigned as CEO and sold most of his shares. She is currently worth $2.1 billion.
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