Stanley Ho, King of Gambling, Dies Age 98

Stanley Ho, the Hong Kong-based casino tycoon, has died at the age of 98. He’s the name behind Macau’s success as the gambling capital of the world.

Known as the “King of Gambling”, Ho was one of Asia’s richest people – a legacy that has now passed to his daughter.

And what a legacy it is. As head of SJM Holdings, one of the largest gaming firms in the world, he amassed a fortune of nearly £5bn.

His daughter told reporters on Tuesday, “My father has passed away peacefully just now at around 1 pm at Hong Kong Sanatorium and Hospital. As Stanley Ho’s family member, we are really sad to inform you of this.”

As far as billionaires go, he didn’t always live up to the stereotype of the serious, chin jutting, businessman. Instead, he loved to dance, had a flamboyant streak, and was articulate and measured in his speech.

How Stanley Ho Became the King of Gambling

Ho started his gambling empire in the 1960s, where he came to dominate the Macau casino strip. Over time, he transformed the small fishing town into the casino capital of the world – quite a feat!

During his lifetime, he expanded operations and now has casinos across the world, including in Portugal and Hong Kong.

Portugal might strike you as an odd choice, but Macau is a former Portuguese colony. There remain many ties between both countries.

Although Ho started his gambling empire in the 60s, it took time to become the gambling kingpin that he is today. His fortune began to expand once China’s economy started opening up in the 1980s. With it came many opportunities, especially in the form of the masses of people that flocked to Macau looking for fun.

Rags to Riches? Not So Much…

His story is one of “rags to riches” and just goes to show that, with hard work, you can reach the pinnacle of success.

But don’t get your hopes up. If you’re dressed in rags, you might stay that way forever. You see Ho is grandnephew to Sir Robert Hotung and the grandson of Ho Fook. Both of who were exceptional businessmen and philanthropists. Ho Fook educated all his children (including Ho’s parent) at private schools in England.

That sort of calibre of education filtered through the generations, as Stanley Ho was well known for his bilingualism.

But, his rise through the ranks wasn’t so much down to his education, but because the city of Macau issued him the only gambling licence. This gave him the monopoly over the Macau gambling industry. If you’re the only one allowed to build casinos, chances are your casinos will be the most popular ones around! Couple this with his “godfather” reputation, and it’s not too hard to see how he became successful.

Still, there’s no reason that Macau, and not some other East Asian town, became the capital of gambling. He was a hardworking and driven person and it’s important to recognise it.

Nevertheless, it’s not so much a “rags to riches” story as a “riches to even more riches” story.

A picture of city lights to represent Macau - Stanley Ho