The sharper edge to traveling in Asia

Macau’s King of Gambling’s Tricky Abdication

Written By: herbrunbridge - Mar• 08•12

Dr. Stanley Ho

(Written by guest author Jenny O’Donnell) For almost five decades, Stanley Ho has dominated Macau’s gambling industry. But as Macau’s ‘king of gambling’ prepares to pass on control of his empire, it’s a succession that’s proving to be fraught with difficulties.

Macau’s king of gambling

The fortunes of Dr. Ho and Macau are closely intertwined. Born in Hong Kong in 1921, Ho first arrived in Macau in 1942. Ho’s first successes came from smuggling luxury goods over to mainland China. The proceeds these generated were subsequently invested in more legitimate businesses. 

Ho’s empire continued to expand after World War II, and his big break came in 1962, after he and his associates were awarded a gambling monopoly in Macau. Over the following decades, Ho was instrumental in driving the rapid growth of casino gambling in Macau and its economy. 

Macau’s casino market is now open to competition, but around 50 cents of every Dollar bet in Macau still goes to the Ho family. Despite his ‘king of gambling’ nickname, Ho’s business interests cover everything from air and sea travel, to shipping and real estate. It is estimated that his companies account for around a third of Macau’s GDP. 

Ho himself is no stranger to controversy, most notably for his alleged collaboration with the Japanese during the WWII occupation of Hong Kong, and his connections with China’s communist regime during the Cold War. But the positive impact he continues to have on Macau’s economy shouldn’t be underestimated.

A difficult abdication

This point was hammered home when the billionaire entrepreneur was hospitalized for seven months in 2009. Given his age, this prompted the difficult question of his succession. Ho’s plan is to split up his empire equally among his 16 surviving children. However, the process has been overshadowed by arguments within the family. 

This came to a head in early 2011, after Dr Ho filed a writ against two of his daughters over the unauthorized transferral of stock. The writ, issued on February 16, 2011, claimed that Pansy and Daisy Ho, “improperly and/or illegally” transferred Ho’s $3.1 billion stake in SJM, Asia biggest casino operator, to a company they control without his blessing. 

Ultimately, the matter was settled out of court in March 2011 after the family came to an agreement of “mutual understanding and mutual accommodation”. Nevertheless, given the stakes involved, it remains to be seen whether this truly is the final chapter in the story.

About the author

This post was provided and co-written by Jenny O’Donnell,  writer and content editor for  She actively follows Macau-related casino and cultural news.

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