He was born in Kato Drys, Cyprus 13 March 1913 and left for Great Britain in 1928, aged 14. He started selling his mother's handmade lace door-to-door and gradually headed north, settling in Glasgow. By the 1940s, Stakis was involved in his first restaurant, the Victory in Glasgow, whose affordable prices began to change the way Scottish people dined out. By the 1960s, he had a chain of thirty restaurants and hotels throughout Scotland. In 1962, he bought the Dunblane Hydro Hotel, which was run-down yet within six months he had returned it to profit. Stakis was to make his home in the grounds of that hotel.
Stakis opened Scotland's first casino, the Chevalier, in 1964 and gradually added several other casinos to the Stakis group. However, his flagship hotel, The Grosvenor, was destroyed by fire in 1978.
He was knighted in 1988. By that time Stakis' son Andros had taken over the business and in difficult trading conditions, some poor decisions brought the company close to bankruptcy. However, new management brought renewed profitability and Stakis was able to sell his empire to the Hilton Group for £1.2 billion in 1999.
He was Chairman of Stakis plc from 1947–1991, and President 1986-1999.
He married Annitsa Petropoulos in 1946, and they had two sons and four daughters.
Scottish journalist Jack Webster wrote his biography Stakis: The Reo Stakis Story.