Stanley Ho, the Hong Kong-born tycoon who made billions transforming neighbouring Macau from a sleepy Portuguese outpost into the world’s biggest gambling hub, died on Tuesday at the age of 98, his family said.

Known as the “godfather” of Macau’s casinos, Ho was instrumental in turning the semi-autonomous city on China’s southern coastline into a gambling boomtown.

He fathered at least 17 children and speculation about how his vast fortune would be divided among his offspring has long occupied Hong Kong’s tabloid media alongside public family feuds.

Family members said Ho passed away shortly after 1.00 pm local time in hospital.

“My father will live in our family members’ hearts forever, and the hearts of all the people who benefited from him and were encouraged by him,” daughter Pansy told reporters. China’s state-run CCTV described Ho as a “patriotic entrepreneur”.

Ho monopolised the gaming industry until 2002, when the government introduced foreign investors sparking a boom which saw casino takings contribute around 80 percent of Macau’s annual revenue and overtake Las Vegas.

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