by Patrick Appel

Joel Stein profiles the city:

If it's this bad, why, then, does every Vegasite I meet still talk as if he or she is about to go on a winning streak? The people in Vegas aren't nearly as depressed as those in far less devastated cities. "This is a town built on hopes and dreams, and people don't give up hopes and dreams when there's a recession," says Neal Smatresk, executive vice president and provost at the University of Nevada at Las Vegas. Anyone who has ever stood at a craps table knows that losers always believe they're one roll of the dice from starting a winning streak.

That is true even of Sheldon Adelson, who has lost more during this recession than anyone else on the planet.

The 76-year-old chairman of the Las Vegas Sands Corp., which owns the Venetian hotel, the Sands Expo and Convention Center and the Venetian Macao, was in 2007 and '08 the third richest person in the world, with by his estimate a net worth of $40 billion. By February of this year, he said he had lost $36.5 billion more than the GDP of half of the countries in the world. In the years before that slide, banks were begging him to take their money, given his massive success in building the first Vegas-style hotel and casino in Macao, China, in 2004. Adelson didn't hesitate, taking all he could get and building an entire mini-Vegas in Macao called the Cotai Strip, along with huge casinos in Singapore; he also doubled his Vegas space by adding the Palazzo to his Venetian hotel. In a short time, he has accumulated a debt-to-earnings ratio of 6.8 to 1 in the U.S. Then the loans stopped coming, and his stock price sank from $144 to $1.42 in March. (It now hovers at about $12.)

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