Macau, known as the Las Vegas of Hong Kong, has died, aged 98 – Known as the King of Gambling, the King of Macacu and the Godfather of Macau, Ho possessed a long-running monopoly in the Macau region, and was the founder and chairman of SJM Holdings, which owned and operated 19 casinos in the Macau region.
Ho was a billionaire who was involved in many other business ventures. Some of these included being the chairman of the Seng Heng Bank Limited, director of the Shun Tak Shipping Company, among countless investments and other boards he sits on.
In addition to being a successful businessman, Ho lived a… colorful life, shall we say? The billionaire died with 17 children, by 4 wives — All of whom were at his bedside when he passed on May 26th, and all of whom he referred to as his wives.
To celebrate the life of this casino-magnate, we’re taking a look at the professional and personal life of Stanley Ho.
Stanley Ho: From War-time Refugee to the King of Gambling
Stanley Ho was born on November 25, 1921 in Hong Kong, and went on to study at Hong Kong University.
When World War ll began, he ceased his studies, and the bilingual (he spoke both English and Chinese) student went on to work as a telephone operator for the British during the war. Later, when Japan captured Hong Kong, Ho boarded a boat, joining other refugees to Macau, China.
Going on to work at a Japanese-owned importing and exporting company, and ended up making a considerable amount of money importing luxury goods to China before starting a construction and kerosene company – And this 20 year-old-millionaire’s success didn’t end there.
The King of Gambling: Ho Builds an Empire
Ho held a monopoly on gambling in the Macau region (which was a Portuguese colony, it ceased being so in December 20, 1999) – the revenue from his casinos accounted for half of Macau’s revenue. Yes, half.
How did he get there? Well, imagine a world in Macau without gambling – That was the 1982 gambling landscape, and the government was accepting bids to award a monopoly on gambling activity in the province. Ho, along with his partners Yip Hon, Teddy Yip and Henry Fok promised tourism revenue and a transformation in the region.
While Ho and his partners weren’t the most experienced of the groups bidding for the gambling monopoly, you probably have a glimpse into what happened next – They won the contract. Ho’s group had a monopoly on gaming in the Macau region until 2001, but he and his family continued to operate 19 casinos in the area. He even went on to create the first basketball and football lottery in Asia.
Even though Ho was influential in the launch of gambling and its rise in Macau, the casino tycoon didn’t gamble himself. In an interview with the Associated Press in 2001, Ho said, “I don’t gamble at all. I don’t have the patience.”
Another interesting thing to note about Ho’s gambling career was his encouragement of the junket VIP system, where a third-party (who works for the casino) collects debts on behalf of the casino.
The Life and Times of the ‘Godfather of Gambling’
The Godfather of Gambling hated casinos, but loved…Dancing? Apparently so. While Stanley Ho avoided the gambling floor, he loved the dance floor.
Ho was an accomplished ballroom dancer, and apparently had a flair for tango, the cha-cha and the waltz, even appearing in televised dancing events. He encouraged dance and the arts in Macau as well, inviting various ballet and dance groups to perform in the region.
Apart from being the Macau Godfather of Gambling, Ho was well-known for his large family — s we mentioned previously, he had not one, but four wives. Hong Kong had made polygamy illegal in 1971.
Lo had 16 children, (yes, 16), two who unfortunately passed away before his death – He is survived by 14 of his children, and three of his four wives, Lucina Laam, Ina Chang and Angela Leong. He is preceded by his wife Clementina Leitao, who passed away in 2004.
Fun fact – Famed martial artist Bruce Lee and Stanley Ho were apparently second cousins. Even with Macau’s 631,363-person population, turns out it’s a small world.