From Rags to Riches: Top 10 Most Powerful People in the Gambling Industry

Chipy Editorial
Written by Chipy Editorial
Vlad Mihalache
Reviewed by Vlad Mihalache
icon-clock-grey 11 min
icon-calendar Updated on Sep 07, 2023
From Rags to Riches: Top 10 Most Powerful People in the Gambling Industry image

It’s no secret that the gambling industry has amassed unimaginable wealth and power worldwide. 

With the advent of the internet and online gaming, that has only increased significantly with more and more people joining the community. 

However, we rarely hear or know about the people behind the glamour and showmanship. 

Just like all other industries, there are people who hold unimaginable power, be they businessmen or pioneers who changed the industry with one swift decision. 

Despite all the flaunt and extravagance we associate with casinos, these people rarely get any attention, and they lurk behind the shadows. 

To remedy that, let’s look at the 10 most powerful people in the gambling industry. 

10. Jason Robins

jason robins

Image source: Bizjournals

Jason Robins is an extremely well-known entrepreneur in the sports betting community. He is the co-founder of DraftKings, a fantasy sport and now sports betting company that has become the largest player in the US sports betting scene. 

Robins created DraftKings with the aim of providing a more engaging and interactive experience to fantasy sports enthusiasts. Under Robins’ leadership, the company has also grown to offer online sports betting and casino games worldwide. 

From free-to-play contests to odds boosts, DraftKings has it all.

Today, it has only one competitor by the name of FanDuel Sportsbook, when it comes to sports betting in the US. 

The company has partnered with major players like the NBA, NFL, and MLB to bring people a secure and official gaming experience. Jason Robbins has a net worth of $320 million and was named one of the most influential people in sports betting by the Sports Business Journal in 2016. 

9. Jack Lam 

jack lam

Image source: SCMP

Jack Lam is one of the most important people in the Asian gambling industry, and the sheer scope of his reach in the market cannot be overstated. 

Lam was born in Guangdong, China, and later moved to the Philippines but cemented his legacy of casinos in both countries. 

Lam is the owner of the Jimei Group which operates everything from casinos to cruise ships across China, Hong Kong, and the Philippines. 

Lam’s company operates big name land-based casinos like Wynn Macau and Las Vegas Sands in China and Fontana Leisure Parks and Casino, and Fort Ilocandia Resort and Casino in the Philippines. Despite controversies about him operating illegal casinos in the country, Lam is still going strong. 

His net worth is estimated to be around $1.8 billion, and with so many casinos under his belt, the man sure wields a lot of power over the Asian gambling market. 

8. Steve Wynn 

steve wynn

Image source: CNBC

That name definitely sounds familiar, right?

Yes, that’s the same Steve Wynn who would found one of the largest and most successful casino resorts, the Wynn Resorts. Wynn started early, all the way back in the 1960s, when he inherited a small business from his family. 

Eventually, he would move from his hometown of Maryland to the city of lights, Vegas. After coming to Vegas, he would be involved with big-name casinos like the Golden Nugget and Mirage Resorts. 

After his time managing various casinos, he opened his own, namely the Wynn Resorts and the Bellagio. Both of these casinos have decades' worth of history inside them and have become almost synonymous with gambling. 

With the rapid success of the Wynn Resorts, Steve Wynn would also go on to open more luxury casinos like the Encore at Wynn Las Vegas, Wynn Macau, and Wynn Palace in Cotai, just to name a few. He is estimated to have a net worth of $3.4 billion. 

7. James Packer 

james packer

Image source: Muskwell Brook Chronicle

James Packer was born in Sydney, Australia, on September 8, 1967. As the son of the media personality Kerry Packer, James would inherit his father’s businesses upon his death. What followed was a complete dominance of the Australian gambling industry. 

In the early 2000s, Packer would invest heavily in Crown Resorts and grow the company into becoming a major gambling and entertainment provider in the country. He also partnered up with MGM to build “CityCenter” in Las Vegas, which would be one of the largest private construction projects in the US and cost over $9 billion back in 2007. 

With a net worth of over $3.9 billion, Packer is one of the wealthiest people in Australia and, despite some setbacks and issues with mental health, has largely remained unchallenged. 

6. Kirk Kerkorian

kirk kerkorian

Image source: NBC News

Born on June 6, 1917, in Fresno, California, Kirk Kerkorian was a major player in the development of Vegas as the gambling capital of the world. He started his career as a boxer and was a WW2 veteran as well. After the war, he started his own chartered airline business, which led him to become involved with the casino industry. 

Although he started off with being an investor in the industry known for his bold nature and willingness to take risks, that would soon change. By the time the 60s rolled around, Kerkorian started buying properties like the Flamingo Casino and MGM Grand. 

Just for perspective, MGM Grand was the largest hotel in the world at that time, and Kerkorian would make it a monolith of the brick-and-mortar casino world. 

He also founded MGM Resorts International in 1986, which would spread the MGM name all over the world by collaborating with local players and creating magnificent resorts that are nothing short of masterpieces. 

He passed away back in 2015 in L.A. with an estimated net worth of $4.2 billion

5. Denise Coates 

denise coates

Image source: Financial Times

Denise Coates has been an immeasurable boon to the British gambling community. Born on September 26, 1967, in Staffordshire, her career started off by managing her family’s betting shops. Soon she would realize that the internet could play a big role in the world of gambling, and the rest is history. 

For those who don’t know, Coates is the founder and CEO of BET365. Although the immense success of the online platform is self-evident today, that wasn’t the case back in 2000 when Denise founded it. 

Her leadership and entrepreneurial spirit made BET365 renowned for its high-quality games and excellent customer service. Today Bet365 stands as one of the most recognized online gambling companies, with more than 45 million users all over the world. 

Coates has also found significant wealth through it, and her net worth stands at a massive $6.8 billion. Her contributions to the gambling world are absolutely gigantic, but she is also well known for supporting various charities and giving back to the poor. 

4. James Maida 

james maida

Image ource: Casino Review

James Maida is a name few have heard, but his actions have led to the establishment of trust over real money games both online and in person. He is the founder and CEO of Gaming Laboratories International, which has been an industry leader when it comes to testing and certifying games. 

Maida started his career early as a lawyer but wanted to establish quality and integrity in the gambling sphere. He first started testing slot machines in his spare bedroom and quickly decided he needed to expand it across all platforms. 

This led him to create GLI in 1989, which has since expanded over more than 20 countries and provides testing for online games, gaming systems, and lottery systems

The American Gaming Association has awarded him the Jens Halle Memorial Award for Excellence in Commercial Gaming Professionalism. It is for GLI that integrity and transparency came to the gambling sphere and will continue to be there for a long time. 

3. Robert Faiss

robert faiss

Image source: Review Journal

Robert Faiss was a major figure in the history of the gaming industry in the US and had considerable sway and influence over where the industry went. Sadly, he passed away back in 2020, but his legacy lives on as one of the best gaming legislators that helped the industry rise into the monolith that it is today. 

Faiss was involved in making gambling laws not only for Nevada but also for other states like New Jersey and Mississippi.

Faiss and his mentor Grant Sawyer would also help in eliminating all the elements of organized crime in the casinos and make them more regulated and fair. 

He wasn’t a man who would retire and would still be a part of the Lionel Sawyer & Collins organization until his death. 

Faiss’ professional career was the reason documented all the ups and downs of Nevada Gaming Laws and the boom that casinos experienced. 

2. William Hornbuckle

william hornbuckle

Image source: Yogonet

William Hornbuckle, also known as Bill, has a real rags-to-riches story which is as inspirational as it is heartfelt. He went from “a busboy at the Jockey Club” to the CEO of MGM Resorts International all through his hard work and dedication. 

Bill went to Vegas with just $100 to his name in a loaned car and graduated from UNLV with flying colors. Soon he was rising through the ranks first at Mirage Resorts, then at Caesar’s Palace, and finally at MGM. He had played a key role in the development of big names like the Bellagio and Beau Rivage. 

He would do the same by expanding the MGM name with MGM National Harbor, MGM Cotai, and MGM Springfield. He also implemented technology like mobile apps and a digital concierge service for MGM. 

As CEO of MGM, Hornbuckle has always focussed on innovations and sustainability that his peers have had to follow. It is because of his focus on innovation that technology has almost become inseparable from gaming and made it much more accessible and fun for the masses. 

1. Sheldon Adelson

sheldon adelson

Image source: Britannica

Many of you may not have heard of Sheldon Adelson, but most have surely heard of the Las Vegas Sands Corporation. The company has over 10 casinos under its belt spread across the US, China, and Hong Kong. It also manages big names like the Four Seasons Hotel and the Conrad, just to name a few. 

Adelson is also credited with perfecting the integrated resort model, which combines casinos, resorts, and other amenities to provide a complete destination for its patrons.

When he wasn’t opening up resorts in exotic locations of the world, he was also donating to political parties, which gave him considerable power and sway not just in the industry but also in the government. 

The self-made billionaire was also loved by the masses as he donated huge sums of money to charitable trusts and medical research. Sadly, he passed away on January 11, 2021, leaving a monolithic empire that will continue to show his contributions to the gambling world and the power he attained for generations to come.

Final Thoughts

That concludes our list of the top 10 most powerful people in the gambling industry we have witnessed so far. With a constantly shifting industry like it, many others have managed to consolidate considerable power in the industry but haven’t managed to hold onto it.

These people, on the other hand, have played a pivotal role in shaping the industry and had the power to do so. 

All of these people have also helped the industry progress and should be remembered for their efforts to bring gambling to more people in a safe and fun manner. They have engrained themselves into the industry in a way where one of them not existing could have changed the course of the industry’s history massively.

Did you know any of the people mentioned in the list? Maybe think of them next time you play a few rounds! 

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Vlad Mihalache

Vlad Mihalache

Online Gambling and Slots Specialist

About Vlad Mihalache

  • Accomplished content strategist and editor with over 6 years of experience in the iGaming industry;
  • Specializes in blackjack strategies, slots, and gambling addiction;
  • Online gambling expert with 2500+ articles written and reviewed;
  • Strong advocate for responsible gambling with comprehensive knowledge of gambling trends and addiction.
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