Macau gambling tycoon Stanley Ho dies at 98

The gambling tycoon fathered 17 children with four women and his recent passing is poised to reopen long-simmering family rivalries

In this April 27, 2008 file photo, Macau tycoon Stanley Ho, center, his wife Angela, right, and prize presenter Malaysian actress Michelle Yeoh, left, watch horse racing at the Shatin race track in Hong Kong. Casino mogul Ho, the father of Macau's fabled gambling industry, has been hospitalized in Hong Kong, local newspapers reported Tuesday, Aug. 4, 2009. (AP Photo/Vincent Yu, File)

TAIPEI (The China Post) — King of Gambling, Stanley Ho, who propelled Macau past Las Vegas as the world’s biggest gambling hub, has died at age 98, local media reported on Tuesday.

Ho’s rise transformed Macao from a commercial backwater into the “Las Vegas of Asia” by exploiting its big advantage over the rest of the mainland — casinos were legal.

His SJM Holdings Ltd., which flourished as the Chinese mainland’s economic opening created a flood of new wealth in a country with a passion for gambling, now controls 20 casinos on an island of about 10 square miles.

The company founder also expanded beyond the island, building residential and office buildings in Hong Kong. In 1984, he won a license to operate a casino in Portugal and spent US$30 million to open the Casino Pyongyang in North Korea in 2000.

The gambling tycoon fathered 17 children with four women and when he retired around mid-2018, he passed some of the top roles at SJM to his heirs.

Daisy Ho, his daughter, became chairman and executive director. Angela Leong, SJM’s second-largest shareholder whom Ho referred to as his fourth wife, became co-chair with another executive director.

Still, the succession is poised to reopen long-simmering family rivalries.