Kerkorian and Adelson's Vegas Billionaire Blues

As gaming slows, they hold weak hands.

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Gaming's hot streak is over, as the slumping U.S. economy kills Las Vegas traffic. The downturn is going global, too; Macau, the Asian island that was expected to overshadow its desertbound brother, is slowing.

Unsurprisingly, outsized names are being dragged down along with their iconic casino profits.

Kirk Kerkorian, the world's 41st richest person on Forbes's list this year, is falling fast after a handful of big, bad bets in the auto sector.

MSN's Charley Blaine puts Kerkorian's losses at $700 million in just four months, and that's just from his failed $1 billion investment in Ford. Meanwhile, the 91-year-old has watched the paper value of his MGM Mirage shares sink more than 85 percent in the last year. That cost him $12.2 billion, Blaine reckons. And falling oil prices are slamming Kerkorian's shares of Delta Petroleum to the tune of more than $750 million.

He's not alone.

Sheldon Adelson, the Las Vegas Sands giant, Republican activist, and short-lived No. 3 on the Forbes list of richest Americans, earlier this month invested almost half a billion to help close some $2 billion in funding for a planned $12 billion resort in Macau.

As I said last week, gaming is going to be a tough sell for some time as gamblers cut back on time at the tables and credit available for massive new projects gets harder and harder to come by. The biggest names in the industry got there thanks to easy money that no longer exists. Time to fold.

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  • Kirk Shinkle

    Kirk Shinkle is a senior editor for U.S. News Money and manages the Best Funds portal. Follow him on Twitter @KirkS or email him at kshinkle@usnews.com.

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