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Tilman Fertitta Puts Name on University of Houston with $50M Donation

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Posted on: May 20, 2022, 10:36h. 

Last updated on: May 20, 2022, 02:10h.

Tilman Fertitta is the latest casino billionaire to put his name on a medical institution.

Tilman Fertitta Houston Golden Nugget casinos
Tilman Fertitta speaks with the media after announcing a $50 million gift to the University of Houston’s College of Medicine. The Golden Nugget billionaire is an alumnus of the university. (Image: Twitter)

Fertitta, 64, whose privately owned Landry’s restaurant and hospitality empire includes five Golden Nugget casinos, this week announced a $50 million donation to the University of Houston’s medical school. University officials say the institution will be renamed, effective immediately, the Tilman J. Fertitta Family College of Medicine.

Tilman Fertitta and his family have made a visionary investment, so it is only fitting this new, ambitious and forward-thinking medical school should bear the Fertitta name,” said University of Houston President Renu Khator. “It will have a remarkable and lasting impact on Houston and the world.

Thanks to the Fertitta family’s amazing generosity, the financial security and longevity of the medical school is cemented for generations to come,” Khator concluded.

Long before Fertitta became one the of nation’s richest casino tycoons, the Texas native attended and graduated from the University of Houston. Fertitta graduated with degrees in business administration and hospitality management.

Along with Landry’s and Golden Nugget casinos in Nevada, New Jersey, Louisiana, and Mississippi, Fertitta owns the NBA Houston Rockets.

Gambling Supporting Medical Research

Fertitta’s $50 million donation will be used in a variety of ways. The gift will support five endowed chairs, establish an endowed research scholarship fund, cover start-up costs for enhanced facilities, and bankroll ongoing research.

Forbes estimates Fertitta’s fortune to be at $5.4 billion as of this week. The Golden Nugget gaming magnate is the latest casino billionaire to give heavily to the medical field.

The gift from the 80-year-old Wynn, who is worth an estimated $3.3 billion, will result in The Wynn Hospital opening next year. The facility is being built across the street from where Wynn’s father owned a bingo parlor in the 1950s.

Casino Tycoons Can Improve Philanthropy

Though some gambling critics negatively group casinos into the so-called “sin industries” with tobacco, alcohol, sex, and weapons, many casino beneficiaries do good with their wealth. But Forbes says some can do better.

Along with ranking billionaires, Forbes applies a philanthropy score to each 10-figure member.

Fertitta is ranked no. 158 on the current Forbes 400, an annual list compiling the US’ wealthiest Americans. Each billionaire is graded a philanthropy score of 1-5, with five being the best.

As for Fertitta, his gift to the University of Houston should greatly help his 2022 giving score, as the billionaire was handed a lowly “1” in 2021. Forbes says such a rating means the billionaire has given away less than 1% of their wealth. The rating does not take into account pledged giving after death.

Fertitta shares the “1” score with such billionaires as Jeff Bezos and Walmart heirs Jim and Rob Walton. Wynn also received a philanthropy score of “1” last year.

However, Miriam Adelson, the world’s richest casino billionaire whose wealth is estimated at $30 billion, has a philanthropy score of “2.” The widow of the late Las Vegas Sands founder Sheldon Adelson has given between 1% and 4.99% of her wealth to charity.

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