Friday, 10 July, 2020


Stanley Ho, Who Built Macao's Gambling Industry, Dies At 98

Stanley Ho left behind a clan led by his 17 children Stanley Ho left behind a clan led by his 17 children
Conrad Doyle | 29 May, 2020, 14:36

The Macau gambling pioneer's fortune continues to grow with the help of his family and his legacy lives.

He was born on November 25, 1921, into the Hotung family, at the time one of Hong Kong's wealthiest and most powerful.

The flamboyant tycoon, who loved to dance and advised his nearest and dearest to shun gambling, headed one of the world's most lucrative gaming businesses through his flagship firm, SJM Holdings Ltd 0880.HK , valued at about $6 billion.

His extended family erupted in high-profile squabbles over his empire during his later years. This effectively made him one of Asia's richest men.

His Sociedade de Jogos de Macau Holdings (SJM) empire remains a major player in Macau, the only place in China where casinos are allowed. Ho spearheaded what is known in Macau as the junket VIP system, whereby middlemen act on behalf of casinos by extending credit to gamblers and taking responsibility for collecting debts.

Known as the "godfather" of Macau's casinos, Mr Ho was instrumental in turning the semi-autonomous city on China's southern coastline into a gambling boomtown. Although he recovered after seven months and left the hospital, he wasn't seen much in public.

In recent years, with his advancing age, Ho began to take steps to divide his empire. Post-retirement, he appointed his daughter as chairman and executive director.

Stanley Ho
Macau’s King of Gambling stepped down from his chairman duties at Sun Tak Holdings in 2017

He had left the same job at his Hong Kong conglomerate Shun Tak Holdings a year earlier.

But Ho's family fortune does not end here. His son Lawrence runs another competitor, Melco.

The deal increased her control over SJM and put the alliance's influence at SJM ahead of Ms Angela Leong, the casino operator's co-chairman and wife of Mr Ho. Back in 2007, Ho purchased a bronze horse head at the cost of $8.9 million, only to donate it to a Chinese museum. At 13, his father lost everything in the stock market and fled to Vietnam, abandoning his wife and children. Although he started university in Hong Kong, his attendance was disrupted due to World War II. "I don't have the patience", Ho told The Associated Press in a rare interview in 2001.

During the war, Ho said he ran nighttime smuggling and trading trips up the Pearl River Delta, on one occasion surviving a pirate attack. In 1962, Ho successfully won the monopoly for gambling in the country following a public bidding.

Portugal transferred control of its colony Macau to China in 1999 and Ho's monopoly ended in 2002.

Ho lost his gambling monopoly in 2002 when Macau was opened up to competition, three years after the enclave returned to Chinese rule. This however only boosted the quiescent Macau market which once revived, quickly outperformed the Las Vegas strip in the US.

Ho shrugged off allegations of ties to organized crime, such as a 2010 report by the New Jersey gaming commission that accused him of letting Chinese criminal gangs, or triads, prosper inside his casinos during the 1990s. However, none of those accusations were ever proved, even more, Stanley Ho first appeared on the cover of Forbes magazine in 1992.

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