Godfather of gambling Stanley Ho dies at 98

 In Entrepreneur, News, Tourism

Stanley Ho, the Godfather who created the largest gambling empire in Asia, has died at the age of 98.

The billionaire turned the former Portuguese protectorate of Macau into the world’s second largest gaming playground, second only to Las Vegas in the United States.
In Portugal he was famous as the majority shareholder in the Estoril Sol Group which runs the three largest casinos in the country, in Lisbon, Estoril and Póva de Varzim.
The tycoon, who famously told reporters at the grand opening of the Lisbon Casino in the Portuguese capital in 2006 that he had “never gambled in his life” expect in business deals, founded the iconic Estoril Casino which played host to famous US entertainers from Donna Summer and Diana Ross to Tony Bennet and Roberta Flack.
In 1962 he won the right to operate all of Macau’s gambling operations until 2001, redefining the city’s skyline when his company SJM built the Grand Lisboa casino in 2007, a 48-storey tower shaped like a lotus flower.
His gambling empire was also involved with the Galaxy Entertainment Group, Melco Resorts & Entertainment, MGM China Holdings, Sands China and Wynn Macau.
Ho was in the Forbes rankings of the World’s Billionaires in 1992 with a net worth of US$1.1Bn and remained on the list until 2011, when his fortune was reduced through a series of share transfers to family members that sparked a very public family feud over control of his empire.
In building his empire, Stanley Ho sometimes fought and often negotiated and even collaborated with the powers that threatened to defeat him, including the Japanese who occupied his homeland in World War II, the Chinese criminal gangs the triads, the Communist government on the mainland, and the United States gambling entrepreneurs who sought to turn Macau into Asia’s Las Vegas.
Operating or owning 20 casinos and related businesses, he employed a quarter of the labour force in Macau and was responsible for 70% of the island’s tax revenues, even financing a fleet of hydrofoils to carry gamblers to the former Portuguese governed island.
Stanley Ho also got involved in several public projects, including the Macau Cultural Centre and the Macau International Airport as well as having links to Macau University and Macau Foundation, not to mention investments in shopping centres and horse race courses.
A great friend to Portugal, he always maintained excellent relations with its Portuguese governors to Macau and Portuguese politicians from presidents to prime ministers and political party leaders.
In recent years, however, it was known that successive Portuguese governments’ crippling taxes on the local gaming industry and its preference for government supported charity lotteries and scratch card gambling had disappointed him with rumours swirling in 2019 that he would not seek to get his company’s gambling licence renewed in Portugal.
Nevertheless, over the decades he maintained a strong link to Portugal via Estoril-Sol, his shipping company Portline and the real estate sector being responsible for building entire new neighbourhoods for the middle classes on the outskirts of Lisbon at Alta da Lisboa. He was also a fervent supporter and benefactor of the Oriente Foundation and its world-class collection of Asian and Far Eastern artefacts now housed in the Oriente Museum in Lisbon.