Ever heard of SJM Holdings before? No? Well, it is probably the world’s largest gambling-related company. The founder of this massive company is Stanley Ho, who is also known as the “gambling king of Asia”. So, who is Stanley Ho? And more important, why is he called the “king”? Let’s find out.
Who Is Stanley Ho
Stanley Ho is a very old man: He is 97 years old now. And yes, he is still alive. He retired 7 years ago and left the company to his children. This means he was the CEO of SJM Holdings for more than 70 years and worked until 90 years old. But we are going too fast, let’s start at the beginning. Stanley Ho was born in 1921 in Hong Kong. He was the bastard child of a British army officer and his Shanghainese mistress. We do not even know their names.
He was a terrible student and placed in “Class D”, which was the lowest class in the Hong Kong education system. However, he managed to earn a scholarship from the University of Hong Kong. In this respect, he was the only student from Class D to get a scholarship from a university, a record that is still not broken to this date. However, before his college education started, the Japanese invaded the country. Stanley Ho escaped Hong Kong and arrived to Macau.
Back in those days, Macau was a country of “illegals”. Almost every aspect of the government was controlled by organized crime. Stanley Ho started his career as a smuggler. He was smuggling hard to find luxury goods from China. Up until the 1950’s, he continued to pursue this “career path”. However, at the end of the 50’s, the government of Macau decided to sell the gambling monopoly rights in the country. There were no VISA accepted online casinos back then, we are talking about brick-and-mortar casinos. Stanley Ho made a lot of friends among the organized crime groups, so he decided to bid for the rights. In exchange for 410.000 USD, he became the only person who could legally offer gambling services in the country. In other words, he became the “casino baron”.
Business Is Blooming
This was also the beginning of SJM Holdings: Stanley Ho constructed the Lisboa Casino Hotel first, which is a global brand at the moment. This was the biggest land-based casino in Macau (and it still is). He continued to build lots of casinos and hotels afterward: Macau Jockey Club, Shun Tak Holdings, Seng Heng Bank Limited, the Chinese Recreation Club, iAsia Technology Limited… Remember that Macau was a small country back in those times and Stanley Ho started the control more than half of the country’s economy with these establishments. He was known as the “underground governor of Macau”. At the end of the 1990’s, his casinos were contributing more than 80% of the city’s annual revenue. He was the 13th richest man in Hong Kong, and his net worth was more than 4 billion dollars. At the start of the 2000’s, he owned and controlled 19 casinos in Macau.
And this was just the casinos: He also owned banks, restaurants, bars, even an airline. He was truly the king and not only the king of gambling: He was the king of Macau.
But Only In Macau
As a king controlling billions of dollars, he tried to expand to other countries too. However, the “Western” world did not welcome him. The Canadians declined his gambling license application because he was linked to several illegal activities. Then Americans did not want him too because they thought Stanley Ho was connected to Chinese organized crime. (However, we should mention that he owns the majority of shares of MGM Mirage in Las Vegas.) Stanley Ho stayed as a “local” businessman, who owned a lot of casinos and hundreds of other establishments. He was controlling an empire, but only in Asia.
You may be expecting a “rise and fall” story but no: Stanley Ho did not fall. He actively worked as the CEO of SJM Holdings until he is 90 years old. He retired after – the company is controlled by his sons and daughters at the moment. His wife, who is 57 years old, is the second largest shareholder of the company after Mr. Ho. Unfortunately, he is not the only king anymore. The monopoly he got 70 years ago has ended, and many other companies started to invest in Macau, such as Galaxy Entertainment Group and Las Vegas Sands Corp. Both of these investments have surpassed the profit of SJM Holdings in a short period of time. In fact, Macau is considered to be the world’s live casino operations center nowadays: Almost all of the live dealer game providers are located in this country. Stanley Ho still lives, and he may not be the king of gambling anymore, but he was the king of Macau for a very long time.