Stanley Ho, one of the wealthiest men in China, passed away at age 98 according to a statement from his daughter, Pansy. Ho had become the King of Gambling in Asia after he envisioned a gambling mecca in the Pearl River Delta to rival Las Vegas. Ho's company, SJM Holdings, owned 20 casinos in Macau and even one in North Korea. At the time of Ho's death, SJM Holdings had an estimated value at $6 billion.
RIP Godfather. Before Stanley Ho, Macau was a sleepy fishing village off the coast of mainland China. It was known as Macao, a former colony of Portugal, and hence its Portuguese spelling. Portugal held control of the island until 1999 after over 420 years of rule. That's when Hong Kong and Macau came under China's control.
After Ho outbid old Chinese tycoons to open a casino, Macau quickly evolved into a gambling paradise as it became Asia's version of glitzy and glamourous Las Vegas. Ho persuaded China to allow international investment into Macau and the tiny gambling enclave swelled to the swankiest gambling hot spot on the planet.
According to financial blogs, Ho's company SJM Holdings, was worth over $6 billion at the time of his death.
According to Martin Yip (BBC News China), "China's state media has mourned him today as 'a patriotic entrepreneur.'"
During the start of WW2, Ho assisted British troops as a radio operator. When Japanese forces overtook the area, he fled for Macau, which had retained its neutrality as a colony of Portugal.
As Ho explains, he went to Macau with $10 in savings and by 20, he had become a millionaire as a smuggler and trader.
Ho started his casino operations in the early 1960s. Over the next four decades, his monopoly developed. When Macau under Chinese control in 1999, that opened up the door to foreign gambling groups including the heavyweights in Las Vegas.
The new casinos created a construction boom. It seemed like the lo-fi gambling town morphed into a crown jewel of gambling in Asia.
In order to bring gamblers to his casinos in Macau, Ho had developed high-speed ferries to whisk gamblers from Hong Kong to Macau. The biggest ballers took a helicopter.
Eventually, China constructed the Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macau Bridge. The massive project never would have happened without Ho.
Ho had a cut of everything in Macau including hotels, airport, and the racetrack.
You couldn't do a business deal in Macau or Asia without the blessing of Ho.
Ho had four wives and at least 17 children. At the time, he could have two wives legally in Macau. Of course, the kids were involved in a brutal and bitter lawsuit to gain control of the gambling empire. Ho restructured SJM Holdings in 2012 in order to keep the peace in the Ho clan.
Ho, ironically, told his friends and families to avoid gambling at all costs. He was not a gambler per se in the traditional sense, although he gambled it up in various business deals over the last couple of decades.
"I don't gamble at all," Ho said in a rare interview in 2001 with the AP. "I don't have the patience. Don't expect to make money in gambling. It's a house game. It's for the house."
Yes, the house always wins. Doesn't matter if it's Monte Carlo, Atlantic City, Las Vegas, or Macau.