What Are Sheldon and Miriam Up To? Eight Things to Know About Adelson Philanthropy

It’s always a crapshoot at the tables. No one should know this better than casino mogul Sheldon G. Adelson, who has oscillated between making a killing and losing it all. Currently Adelson is sitting on top as the 8th richest person in the world with a net worth last valued at $37.6 billion.

The philanthropy of Adelson and his wife Miriam is like the quintessential Vegas show: large-scale, diverse and sure to leave a lasting impression. Instead of being marked by ageless crooners like Wayne Newton, however, Adelson philanthropy focuses on education, medicine and Jewish causes.  

Here are a few things to know about what Sheldon and Miriam's giving:

It’s a Bit Complicated

The Adelsons give through a few different philanthropic entities. The two main ones are the Adelson Family Foundation and the Dr. Miriam and Sheldon G. Adelson Medical Research Foundation. These are both separate private foundations, but the couple have put them under the rubric of the Adelson Foundations, with a single website. In turn, though, both these foundations are bankrolled by the Dr. Miriam & Sheldon G. Adelson Charitable Trust. So that’s three separate foundations, which can be a bit confusing to anyone who loves to dig around in 990s. The Adelsons have also set up two nonprofits, and we’ll say more about those in a minute.

Adelson Keeps His Politics Out of His Philanthropy

While Adelson has famously bankrolled Republican candidates with huge sums, his philanthropy isn’t especially ideological. You won’t find big checks being cut to the places the Cato Institute or the Heritage Foundation, at least through his philanthropic entities. In fact, in 2012 the Adelson Family Foundation didn’t make a single grant to any kind of clearly ideological group.  

Adelson Philanthropy Has Mainly Been a Pay-As-You-Go Operation

Despite their stupendous wealth, Sheldon and Miriam have yet to build up a huge endowment in either their main family foundation or their medical research foundation.  That may be changing, given that the Adelson sunk $364 million into Dr. Miriam and Sheldon G. Adelson Charitable Trust in 2012. Mainly, though, they’ve funded their charity on a rolling basis, with their foundations serving as conduits for big sums of money. In 2012, they pumped $44 million through the Adelson Family Foundation, and $24 million through their medical foundation—funds, as mentioned earlier, that came from the trust.

The Adelsons Believe Deeply in Israel

Lots of Adelson money goes to organizations in Israel, or groups in the U.S. that support Israel. The single biggest check the couple wrote in 2012 was $32 million to the Birthright Israel Foundation, an organization that supports Jewish identity and solidarity with Israel by sponsoring 10-day youth trips to Israel for young Jewish people. And last month, Adelson gave $16.4 million to non-profit called SpaceIL, aimed at landing the first Israeli spacecraft on the Moon. Miriam is generally credited for galvanizing Sheldon’s interest in Jewish causes 

The Adelsons Educational Institute is Growing

The Adelsons also care about K-12 education, and here they’ve put most of their efforts into the Dr. Miriam and Sheldon G. Adelson Educational Institute in Las Vegas. The K-12 Jewish Day School is on the rise, growing from 145 students when it was founded in 2006 to 500 students currently. Adelson gave $55 million to the school in 2012, and this has apparently not only translated into nascent student enrollment but also a growing list of trustees and administrators. Collectively along with teachers, the day school’s total salaries paid was $7.7 million. While the locus of private school giving is along the coasts, Adelson is doing its part to make a big splash in the desert.

The Couple Still Cares About Medical Research

Medical research is a longstanding interest of the couple, and the Dr. Miriam and Sheldon G. Adelson Medical Research Foundation is still running strong. The Adelsons pumped $24 million through the foundation in 2012, with big grants to going to a range of research projects. The foundation’s main focus is cancer, brain and autoimmune disease treatment.

A Common Theme: Drug Abuse Treatment

The Adelson Educational Institute advertises itself as a “drug free zone.” This ties in nicely with one of the Adelsons other chief concerns which it addresses through the Adelson Clinic for Drug Abuse Treatment and Research. Records indicate that the entity has consistently received under $1 million annually since 2009. While it’s clear that Adelson has put most of its focus elsewhere, Adelson is still giving money to drug treatment. Who knows? Maybe he’ll even tackle gambling addiction some day.

There’s Plenty More Where That Came from

The Adelsons have not signed the Giving Pledge, but rest assured that many billions more of their money will go to philanthropy. What else can they do with $37 billion? In fact, for all their generosity, the couple has really just scratched the surface in terms of giving away any substantial chunk of their wealth. Stay tuned.