Stanley Ho: 7 Surprising Facts About “The King of Gambling”

Stanley Ho With a Grand Lisboa Macau Background

Stanley Ho was a real inspiration to many businessmen and gamblers alike. “The King of Gambling” built a casino empire in Macau and other locations around the world.

Ho passed away in March at the impressive age of 98 and left an incredible legacy behind. Here are seven surprising facts about The King of Gambling.

1 – Bruce Lee and Ho Were Cousins

Stanley Ho’s grandfather was the adopted uncle of Grace Ho Oi-yu. The name may mean nothing to you, but Grace Ho Oi-yu was Bruce Lee’s mother.

It’s unclear if Stanley Ho spent much time with his famous cousin. However, I imagine the “Enter the Dragon” star and “The King of Gambling” would’ve made quite the duo at the kid’s table for family gatherings.

Bruce Lee Performing a Jump Kick

While the two may not have been close, it indeed serves as a testament to the Ho family’s pedigree. You’ll be hard-pressed to find any more prominent names in their respective fields.

2 – Stanley Ho Spent World War II as a Smuggler

Much like the great Art Vandelay, Ho got his start as an importer/exporter. Of course, Art Vandelay was the imaginary persona of George Costanza, a fictional character from the great show Seinfeld.

Stanley Ho was a very real smuggler. In fact, Ho earned the nest egg he would later use to build his empire smuggling between Macau and China during the Second World War.

Macau was a Portuguese colony at the time and maintained neutrality with China, Japan, and Hong Kong. A majority of what Ho was involved in smuggling were luxury goods for the Chinese elites. However, Ho was willing to smuggle anything for the right price.

Ho is rumored to have made a pretty penny smuggling food across the border as well. By the young age of 24, Stanley Ho had amassed a fortune for his efforts.

3 – Stanley Ho Had a Love for the Art of Dance

From ballroom to ballet, Stanley Ho was a dance enthusiast. Not only did Ho enjoy spending nights dancing the hours away with one of his wives.

Ho had a particular affinity for the waltz and ballroom dancing. He was also known to cut a rug to the tango.

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Mr. Ho made substantial contributions to the Hong Kong ballet community and often attended performances by the talented group.

Stanley Ho was legendary for being light-footed and enjoyed the discipline of dance well into his golden years. Not only as a patron to the arts but as an agile older man spinning and dipping to the music.

4 – Ho Opened a Casino in North Korea

Ho became a part of gambling history when he opened his first Macau casino in 1970. Ho brought a futuristic and unique styling to the market with Casino Lisboa.

This hotel-casino made a big splash with gamblers and encouraged the region’s development into the casino gambling mecca it has become known as.

The grand reception of Casino Lisboa also served to propel Stanley Ho into the role of casino tycoon. Ho owned over 20 casinos when he passed away.

Exterior of Casino Lisboa in Macau

These included possibly the most secluded casino on earth, the infamous Casino Pyongyang. Yes, that Pyongyang.

The Casino Pyongyang sits in the North Korean capital as the sole casino in the city. In fact, there exists only one other casino in the country.

You may be surprised to learn there’s a casino in North Korea or that the impoverished nation has many gamblers. Well, gambling by citizens is strictly forbidden.

North Koreans aren’t only forbidden from gambling in the casino. They aren’t even allowed inside the casino.

This includes all staff, which is comprised 100% of foreigners. The casino is relatively small in comparison to most casinos in the United States. So, the small team has little trouble handling the few small tables and sparse clientele.

The casino’s number one clients are from China. It’s impossible to determine what percentage of visitors to the casino are Chinese, but it’s safe to assume it’s over 95%.

I don’t recommend you travel to North Korea. If you’re ever in the country, it may be a unique casino to visit and brag to your friends.

Please, just be extra cautious and follow any casino rules or staff requests to a “T.”

5 – “HK 1” Registration Plates

Stanley Ho owned many luxury automobiles. You probably aren’t surprised by a billionaire with a fleet of cars worth millions.

I don’t blame you for not gawking at a $400,000 price tag on one of the many Rolls Royce parked on his estate. It’s a drop in the bucket of his wealth and a fine specimen of a luxury automobile.

However, his stable of opulent cars is dwarfed compared to one thing that many people may overlook. That’s the subtle yet incredibly expensive registration he owns for his ride.

Stanley Ho owned the rights to the Hong Kong “HK 1” registration plates, and they’re valued at over $12,000,000. That’s U.S. dollars, the number jumps to a smooth HK$100 million if you prefer enormous figures.

I can’t fathom spending $12 million on what amounts to a vanity plate. In fact, if I had $12 million, you may never hear from me again.

6 – Stanley Ho Had Four Wives

Stanley Ho lived a life of extravagant excess, and that abundance didn’t stop when it came to his personal life.

Ho had four wives. Now, I understand that having four wives isn’t nearly as uncommon as it was before divorce became so rampant. But Stanley Ho had four wives simultaneously, which is pretty rare in mainstream culture.

Ho’s first marriage was to Clementina Leitao in 1942, and the couple had four children together.

In 1973, Clementina was in a horrific car crash that left her in a wheelchair and requiring special care 24 hours a day. The two remained married until Clementina passed away in 2004.

Stanley Ho and His Family With His First Wife

Lucina Laam became Mrs. Stanley Ho II in 1957. Qing Dynasty law permitted polygamy in Hong Kong until 1971.

The couple had five children together, including Lawrence, who took over the family business.

Lucina was often seen on Stanley’s arm at social events, and the pair became known as the “Dancing King and Queen.”

Ina Chan came into Ho’s life as a full-time nurse for Clementina. In fact, Clementina reportedly set the stage for Ina and Stanley to explore a romantic relationship.

Maybe Clementina felt a need to provide Lucina a lesson on turnabout being fair play. Chan and Ho were “married” in 1985, and the couple added three more children to the Ho clan.

Only a year after his third wife joined the family, Stanley met Angela Leoung. The dance instructor caught the tycoon’s eye at a ball held in his honor, and the two struck a friendship.

Within four years, the pair were living together and had the first of their four children, Sabrina. Stanley Ho didn’t confirm their relationship publicly until 1998.

Though the two were never married, Ho remarked that all of his children’s mothers were his wives. The couple had four children together.

Stanley Ho clearly had a large family with four wives and 16 children. I guess you can afford 16 college tuition on a billionaire’s salary.

7 – “Casino Tycoon”

Stanley Ho was such an inspiration and a larger than life figure that he inspired a movie. Casino Tycoon is a 1992 film starring Andy Lau.

The film did so well in the Asian markets that they even made a sequel, dynamically dubbed Casino Tycoon 2.

The movie didn’t receive any Oscars. Nor are you likely to find it on any lists of the best casino movies of all time.

However, if you have a couple of hours to kill and a Netflix account check it out. It’s decidedly better than anything Rob Schneider has ever done.

Conclusion

Stanley Ho lived life to the fullest. He built a casino empire from nothing using his lucrative and exciting life as a smuggler.

To say he had a large family may be an understatement. He had a full-on clan of intelligent and very motivated children.

He loved to dance the Macau nights away with one of his wives by his side. Even well into his later years, Ho enjoyed the arts.

I’m not sure when my time will be up, but 98 sound like a pretty good number — especially if I’m able to continue doing the things I love the most until the end.