Legendary Casino Magnate and Gambling Billionaire Stanley Ho Death Aged 98
One of the most legendary figures in the world of gambling, casino magnate Stanley Ho, has passed away at the age of 98.
Hong Kong hospital
Stanley Ho, a larger-than-life casino magnate who basically was the man behind the success of the Chinese gambling city of Macau, passed away aged 98. Mr Ho’s daughter, Pansy Ho, announced that her father died at the Hong Kong Sanatorium Hospital.
Pansy Ho told the press: “My father has passed away peacefully just now at around 1pm at Hong Kong Sanatorium and Hospital. As Stanley Ho’s family member, we are really sad to inform you of this.”
Stanley Ho managed to make a fortune out of his casino imperium, gathering several billions of dollars in profits from his many casinos in Macau and beyond. It is estimated that he has a fortune of around 15 billion US dollar.
Mr Ho’s company, SJM Holdings, used to have a monopoly on the gambling business in Macau, which is known as the only place in China were gambling is readily and legally available for the public.
Even though the Chinese Government ended the SJM Holdings monopoly in the year 2002, Mr Ho’s businesses continued to thrive. SJM Holdings currently operates a total of 21 casinos across Macau and other countries in Asia and even operates a casino in the hermit nation of North Korea. Besides being popular with average Chinese tourists, many rich Chinese and Asian tourists flock to the high-limit casino tables of Macau’s casinos were massive bets are not uncommon.
Stanley Ho will also be remembered as a larger-than-life figure who also managed to hit the tabloids with news that had nothing to do with the economics of his casinos. Mr Ho was married four times and fathered a total of 17 children. In the last couple of years, he has hit the newspapers frequently as his family already started to fight over the inheritance of his casino empire.
According to American authorities, Mr Ho had close ties to the infamous organised crime syndicates – the triads – of Hong Kong. At one point, the gambling authorities of New Jersey even came with a report which stated that there was a link between Mr Ho and organised crime syndicates, which forced Mr Ho and his MGM Mirage Macau Casino to cancel their previous plan to take over a casino in Atlantic City, New Jersey.
The New Jersey Gaming Commission report stated that Mr Ho gave Hong Kong triads entry into the exclusive and highly private VIP backrooms of his Macau casino’s – a market which the triads previously never managed to penetrate.
Stanley Ho’s full name is Ho Hung-sun and he was born in 1921 in Hong Kong, back then still a British colony. Interestingly, his great-grandfather was a Dutchman named Charles Bosman, who worked in Hong Kong as an entrepreneur in the middle of 19th century. One of Mr Ho’s cousins was famous actor and martial arts artist Bruce Lee.
Mr Ho was initially involved in illegal businesses with his family clan as he started to smuggle luxurious goods from Macau, back then a Portuguese colony, into China during World War II. His smuggling profits he invested in the kerosene trade and the construction business.
Stanley Ho’s breakthrough came when he launched a successful bid to take over the gambling monopoly in Macau which the local government was selling. Ho was instrumental in cementing the reputation of Macau as a prime gambling destination for Chinese gamblers.
Macau is a former Portuguese colony on some islands off the coast of China and long had a status similar to neighbouring Hong Kong across the bay. In 1999 the Portuguese Government relinquished control over the territory and handed it back to China. Although Macau is still nominally a semi-autonomous city state within China, it meant that it was in the end still Beijing which was pulling all the strings from that moment.
For the casino industry, this was a huge breakthrough as suddenly millions of Chinese tourists gained easy access to Macau and could now flock to its famous casinos. Although Macau was always a popular place among gamblers to visit, the millions and millions of extra players caused a gigantic boom in gambling revenue. When in 2002 the market was liberalised, also foreign casino companies were welcomed to invest in Macau. This made Macau into the city it is today – a city with a higher gambling revenue than Las Vegas, therefore making it the biggest gambling city in the world.
Even though it also meant that Mr Ho lost his monopoly, he still remained on good terms with both the local Macau government as well as with Beijing, receiving numerous awards and titles. Upon his death, he was even praised by CCTV – Chinese state television – as a “patriotic entrepreneur”. This is quite remarkable given that an anti-corruption crackdown by Chinese President Xi Jinping in 2014 caused a major downturn in gambling profits for Mr Ho’s company as thousands of casino highrollers suddenly stayed away from Macau.
Stanley Ho was active in his gambling business until 2018 when he finally stepped down from the helm of SJM Holdings aged 96.
SJM Holdings, a Portuguese abbreviation which stands for Sociedade de Jogos de Macau (Gaming Society of Macau), is currently in control of Mr Ho’s fourth wife Angela Leong and his daughter Daisy Ho.