Why Macau is now the most fascinating city to gamble in on Earth
The casino floors in Macau are awash with people from mainland China
Macau is a city with an immensely rich cultural heritage. Formerly a Portuguese colony, it was the ideal strategic hub for the Portuguese that were looking to enhance trade links between the Mediterranean and the Far East. Nevertheless, Macau was returned to the hands of the Chinese government on the eve of the new Millennium. While that was big news for the Macanese, the rise of the city state’s casino industry has been equally epic for its economic prosperity.
Since the 1850s, residents have been legally allowed to gamble in Macau. However, prior to the return of Macau to Chinese rule, the city’s casinos were overrun and heavily influenced by gang culture. However, the Chinese government helped to weed out the gangs from the casinos and create a more westernized, sophisticated gaming industry that has since enticed visitors from all over mainland China, Asia and beyond.
Many western-style casino games have been introduced in the last couple of decades, such as Texas Hold’em poker, blackjack, roulette and even sports betting that’s helped develop a string of highly profitable football tipping professionals. However, the most popular casino game in Macau’s 39 plush casinos is baccarat. In fact, it accounts for around 90% of all gaming revenue in the city. It’s particularly popular among the high-rollers that spend their hard-earned millions in the city’s private VIP rooms.
When the Chinese government put a stop to the Macanese monopoly of the city’s casinos, it has since opened its doors to significant overseas investment. The city’s plethora of lavish casinos now resemble something of the Las Vegas Strip, with the Cotai Strip now offering just as many neon lights and high-end gaming tables as a visit to the likes of the Bellagio or Caesar’s Palace. A quick look at the biggest and busiest casinos in Macau and you’ll find the Venetian Macau, the Sands Macau and Wynn Macau all plying their trade – big names exported to the Far East from the Nevadan desert.
Caption: The new-look skyline of Macau’s city centre
It’s not just the casino’s gaming culture that has found its way to Macau either. The arrival of these multi-billion-dollar casinos has also led to the launch of Michelin-starred dining and high-end retail stores, designed to attract the rich and mega-rich to the city and spend their money 24/7 – not just at the casino tables. Depending on who you believe, Macau’s casino industry is said to generate between 40-50% of the city state’s gross domestic product (GDP). Furthermore, taxes on gambling also equate to almost three-quarters (70%) of the Macanese government’s income.
Things to remember about gambling in Macau
- Like Las Vegas, you have to be aged 21 and above to gamble legally in Macau. You’ll need to carry our passport or driving license to prove your wage in virtually every casino you enter.
- Most Macanese casinos frown upon the use of cameras and computers on their casino floors, so try and be discrete if you want to take a holiday selfie!
- Don’t go overboard with the alcohol – while Las Vegas might be regarded as “Sin City”, Macau is somewhat less au fait with the reckless, “Spring Break” style audience.
- The legal tender used in Macau’s casinos is the Hong Kong dollar – not the Macanese Pataca. This is important to bear in mind if you want to exchange some funds to play with before your stay.
- The casinos in Macau are spread across two main areas – downtown Macau and the Cotai Strip. Shuttle buses do operate between both areas, but you’ll need to ensure you have proof of your stay to board hotel-operated vehicles for security purposes.
- Although Macau has been a little slower on the uptake compared with Vegas in the entertainment department, Macau’s casinos are slowly catching up. Sports fans can find headline boxing fights and UFC events now regularly hosted here.
Aside from Macau’s casino scene, there’s plenty of other fascinating features. Its Portuguese architecture and Mediterranean-influenced cuisine are two of the most impressive experiences one can find outside of the casino walls. It’s also home to some impressive beaches too, including a notable black sand beach, so Macau definitely cannot be accused of being a one-trick pony.