Gambling tycoon Stanley Ho dies aged 98

Billionaire Stanley Ho, who was considered the father of modern gambling in China, has died at the age of 98.

Known as the “King of Gambling”, Mr Ho secured for himself a four-decade monopoly on casinos in Macau, then used his home advantage to build an empire that still dominated the industry after it opened to foreign companies in 2002.

He was the former Portuguese colony’s richest tycoon, a lavish spender and accomplished ballroom dancer who wielded great influence both in Macau and in neighbouring Hong Kong while – according to US authorities – maintaining ties to organised crime.

<figcaption class='imgFCap'>The casino mogul’s empire led to family squabbles in his later years (AP)</figcaption>
The casino mogul’s empire led to family squabbles in his later years (AP)

Tall, handsome and of mixed Chinese and European heritage, Mr Ho fathered 17 children with four women.

His extended family erupted in high-profile squabbles over his empire during his later years.

Even though casinos made his fortune, Mr Ho avoided the gaming floor.

“I don’t gamble at all. I don’t have the patience,” he told the Associated Press in a rare interview in 2001.

“Don’t expect to make money in gambling. It’s a house game. It’s for the house.”

He also had stakes in businesses that run everything from the ferries and helicopters connecting Hong Kong and Macau to department stores, hotels, Macau’s airport and its horse-racing tracks.

In 2009, Mr Ho underwent brain surgery after he reportedly fell at home and hit his head.

He left the hospital after seven months and was rarely seen in public afterwards.

His weakened condition may have set the stage for a very public family feud that erupted in 2011 over control of Macao casino operator SJM Holdings Ltd.

<figcaption class='imgFCap'>Mr Ho is survived by 16 children (Kin Cheung/AP)</figcaption>
Mr Ho is survived by 16 children (Kin Cheung/AP)

Mr Ho disputed a supposed transfer of his entire multibillion-dollar stake to five of his children and one of his wives, calling it a “robbery” that went against his desire to divide the fortune equally among various branches of his family.

The dispute eventually was settled after several lawsuits and Mr Ho transferred most of his SJM shares to family members while officially remaining chairman until he retired, aged 96.

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

Mr Ho is survived by three of his wives and 16 children. His eldest son, Robert, was killed in a car crash in Portugal in 1981.

Daughter Pansy is co-chair of rival MGM’s Macau casino business while son Lawrence runs another competitor, Melco.

Another daughter, Josie, is an actress and singer who had a role in the 2011 Steven Soderbergh film Contagion.

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