- »Macau Casino Mogul Stanley Ho Dead at 98
Macau Casino Mogul Stanley Ho Dead at 98
Stanley Ho is synonymous with Macau gambling, often called the “godfather of gambling.” He long held somewhat of a monopoly on Macau gambling, with his businesses employing approximately one-fourth of all workers in Macau.
After his health took a turn for the worse more than 10 years ago, Ho never fully recovered. He died this week in Hong Kong at the age of 98.
A Gambling Life
Stanley Ho was the ninth of 13 children, born in November 1921 in what is now Hong Kong. He studied at the University of Hong Kong though never finished his schooling due to World War II.
His foray into the business world was in a clerical position at a Macau company, but he took the opportunity of WWII to begin smuggling luxury goods into China from Macau. That money led to the launch of a construction company.
Ho eventually partnered with Hong Kong businessman Henry Fok and Macau gamblers Yip Hon and Teddy Yip. That combined business savvy and wealth allowed the group to win a monopolistic gambling license for Macau in 1961. They renamed their company as the Sociedade de Turismo a Diversoes de Macau (STDM) and began their takeover of Macau.
Ho operated as Shun Tak Holdings, which was a publicly-traded company that diversified into air transportation, real estate, and investments in gambling ventures.
At the same time, STDM took over the Macau Jockey Club and became its CEO. He launched a football and basketball lottery. Ho became the president of the Real Estate Developers Association of Hong Kong. And his investments and influence reached far beyond Hong Kong and Macau.
Ho’s monopoly on Macau gambling ended in 2002 when others were welcomed in. Casino moguls like Steve Wynn and Sheldon Adelson quickly joined the market and built giant casinos on Macau.
Many credited Ho into transforming Macao into a gambling hub of the world, one that rivaled Las Vegas. In a region where gambling had been frowned upon and discouraged, especially in China, Ho made Macau into a gambling mecca. Some even called it the Las Vegas of Asia.
Rumors of Shady Dealings
Allegations of ties to a Chinese triad began more than 20 years ago. A United States research paper released in 2003 entitled “Asian Organized Crime and Terrorist Activity in Canada, 1999-2002” examined organized crime in the US through Canada.
The primary findings of the report included the assertion that 50 terrorist groups – with more than 350 members collectively – used Canada for criminal activities. Those numbers significantly decreased, however, when Canada passed the Anti-Terrorism Act of 2001.
One of those groups was called the Kung Lok Triad. It was founded in Toronto but spanned Canada and the United States with hundreds of members. A Manila newspaper tied Stanley Ho to that triad.
In 2010, the New Jersey Division of Gaming Enforcement in the US also tied Ho to organized crime. That report to the state’s Casino Control Commission linked him to the 14K Triad and Sun Yee On Triad. Allegedly, Ho used his VIP casino rooms and junkets to provide organized crime an entry into Macau as far back as the 1980s.
The New Jersey allegations stemmed from an investigation into a business partnership between MGM Mirage in Macau and Ho’s daughter Pansy Ho Chiu-King. MGM was a partial owner in the Atlantic City’s Borgata Casino, and New Jersey wanted MGM to divest.
Ho always denied links to organized crime and mafia activities, and he was never arrested or convicted on any charges.
Son’s Ties to Australia
Australians may recognize Lawrence Ho from news reports in the last several years. The only son of Stanley Ho with his second of four wives, Lawrence lived and attended university in Canada before heading into the business world. He followed in his father’s footsteps by taking over Melco International Development, which focused on the entertainment and resort industry.
Melco partnered with Crown Limited in 2004, James Packer’s company and overseer of Crown Resorts. Ho became the CEO of the combined Melco Crown Entertainment company, and the company grew into a publicly-traded entity by 2006.
Ho eventually branched off with Melco Resorts & Entertainment. However, the ties between Crown and Melco dissipated when the Australian government and provincial regulators looked into Ho’s background. They decided that the possible ties between the Ho family and organized crime triads were too credible, and most regulators did not want Ho involved.
The approval of the latest Crown Sydney project was specific enough to ban Packer from having any dealings with Ho. It was an important part of the project’s approval.
And when Lawrence Ho wanted to buy shares of Crown from Packer in the past year, the New South Wales Independent Liquor & Gaming Authority launched an investigation into Ho’s involvement with Crown and Packer.
Ho and Packer Part Ways
The investigations soured Ho’s desire to become a larger shareholder in Crown. Regulators requested many Melco business documents, and standoffs began.
And when the coronavirus pandemic hurt casino businesses in the first part of 2020, Melco suffered great financial losses. When the Blackstone Group wanted to swoop in and buy Melco’s stake in Crown, Ho readily gave it up.
As of 2019, however, Lawrence Ho maintained an approximate net worth of $2.2 billion.
Ho Health Decline
Stanley Ho had not been in good health for years. He suffered a stroke in 2009, from which it took him a long time to recover. It was in the subsequent years that he began to divide up his multi-billion-dollar empire amongst his children.
He ultimately had four children with his longest-serving wife. And his most business-minded offspring – Lawrence Ho and Pansy Ho – were among the five children from another wife. The other two wives produced another seven children. This all contributed to a complicated division of wealth.
Ultimately, Stanley Ho was ill at the Hong Kong Sanatorium and Hospital when he died there on May 26, 2020.