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Investors Bet Changes Coming to Stanley Ho's Gambling Empire

The death of billionaire Stanley Ho could bring changes to one of Asia's largest casino and business empires.

The death of legendary Macao gambling tycoon Stanley Ho has investors buying up shares in his flagship casino company and other enterprises.

Shares of SJM Holdings Ltd., which trades on the Hong Kong Stock Exchange, jumped 7.15% to close at $8.84 a share on news of death of Ho, whose gambling and business empire includes 20 casinos on Macao.

Ho, who was 98 and worth an estimated $7 billion,  transformed Macau, a former Portuguese colony on the coast of China, into one of the world's top gambling destinations. Ho built an array of casinos and hotels over the decades on Macao before opening the door to Wynn Resorts  (WYNN) - Get Wynn Resorts Limited Report and Las Vegas Sands  (LVS) - Get Las Vegas Sands Corp. Report, which spent billions building their own casinos in the special administrative region of China.

A university student in Hong Kong when World War II broke out, Ho fled to Macau, then an underdeveloped fishing port controlled by the Portuguese, after the Japanese takeover.

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Ho claimed to have started his business empire with just $10 in his pocket, though his marriage to the daughter of a prominent Macau lawyer likely was helpful when he secured Macau's gambling monopoly in 1962.

A number of Ho's 17 children have gone on to take prominent positions in his various casino and commercial enterprises. Speculation about potential ownerships changes in the wake of Ho's death saw investors snap up shares not just in SJM, but also in his transportation firm, Shun Tak Holdings, and in casino operator Melco International.

"The market is expecting ... a scramble for inheritance," Kenny Ng, an analyst at Evergreen Sun Hung Kai, told the Economic Times.