Stanley Ho, Macau Gambling Mogul Dies Aged 98
June 12th, 2020 10.00am
Stanley Ho, Macanese billionaire and casino mogul passed away at an age of 98, and his absence will surely be felt in the region’s gambling community.
He died at Hong Kong Sanatorium and Hospital.
Known as the King of Gambling, Ho ironically wasn’t a gambler. In one of his rare interviews, a couple of years, the gambling magnate shocked the entire gambling community by admitting that he had never wagered a penny in his life. He proudly confessed he had never played cards, slots or Roulette for money, and had also never bet on sports.
What a Life Story!
His life represents a unique story of commitment and dedication. Ho, who was of Dutch-Jewish and English ancestry, was born in Hong Kong in 1921 as the ninth of thirteen children in his family. He fought hard to enrol at Queen’s College, Hong Kong, but his university education was cut short by World War II in 1941.
Ho abandoned his studies and fled to Macau, where he would eventually discover his passion for businesses and entrepreneurship, and, of course – gambling.
He made his first fortune by smuggling goods to China during the early 1940s. It took him only two years to establish his own construction company and even set up a kerosene business. This was a smart move, especially during the construction boom that Hong Kong had after the war.
His gambling career started in 1961 after he secured the gaming monopoly license in Macau. Gambling was on the rise, and soon Lisboa Casino Hotel, owned by Ho’s company would earn a cult gambling status on an international scale. He had 4 wives and 17 children (some sources claim 19) and built a vast business empire thanks to the government-granted monopoly he held on the Macau gambling industry for nearly eight decades.
A Powerful and Controversial Figure
As a rich and powerful figure, he was often surrounded by controversy. Some Western governments linked him to Chinese mafia, while the US Senate even conducted an official inquiry into his connections with a renowned American gambling operator.
It had also been rumoured that he helped smuggle weapons to North Korea. However, this rumour has never been confirmed.
The flamboyant billionaire was an omnipresent figure in the public life of Macau. When Portugal agreed to return the region to China, back in 1987, he became a member of the joint advisory committee. Ho even took part in different governmental bodies in Hong Kong, after the territory became China’s Special Administrative Region.
In the late 1990s, Ho became the first living man in Macau to have a street named after him.
Ho was a charismatic figure, and the fact there was a plethora of opinion flying about the media scene. In 2004, he revealed two of his brothers had committed suicide and pointed out that these tragic events inspired him to become his own man and to fight for himself. His entire business empire, estimated at around £5.1 billion was made from scratches. Ho retired in 2018, a couple of months before he turned 97.
It wasn’t easy being a child in a poor family of 13 children, but Ho did manage to rise above all the challenges to become one of the leading figures in the modern history of Macau. The company he founded, SJM Holdings, is one of the most successful gaming businesses in the world, valued at around £4.9 billion. At this moment, the company owns and operates a total of 20 casinos located in Macau.
SJM Holdings is one of the most successful gaming businesses in the world.