Stanley Ho, who built Macao's gambling industry, dies at 98

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FILE : In this file photo taken on July 26, 2009, Macao tycoon Stanley Ho, talks to reporters after the Macau chief executive election in Macao. On Tuesday, May 26, 2020, the family of Stanley Ho, the Macao casino tycoon considered the father of modern gambling in China, has died at 98. (AP Photo/Vincent Yu, File)

HONG KONG – Casino tycoon Stanley Ho, whose business empire dominated the Portuguese gambling enclave of Macao for decades, died Tuesday in Hong Kong at age 98.

Considered the father of modern gambling in China, Ho’s long and eventful life tracked the ebb and flow of southern China’s fortunes. After a swashbuckling start as a kerosene trader, he ended up as Macau’s richest person, a lavish spender and debonair ballroom dancer.

A family statement said he died peacefully in his sleep, but did not give a cause of death.

Of mixed Chinese and European heritage, Ho fathered 17 children with four women, an extended family that engaged in high-profile squabbles over his legacy during his later years.

Ho had stakes in businesses running everything from the ferries and helicopters connecting Hong Kong and Macao to department stores, hotels, Macao’s airport and its horse-racing tracks.

But he said he avoided the gambling floor.

“I don’t gamble at all. I don’t have the patience,” Ho told The Associated Press in a rare interview in 2001. “Don’t expect to make money in gambling. It’s a house game. It’s for the house.”

Ho was born on Nov. 25, 1921, into the Hotung family, one of Hong Kong’s wealthiest and most powerful. When he was 13, his father abandoned the family after being wiped out by a stock market crash during the Great Depression.