Known as the « Las Vegas of the East », Macau is the new gaming capital and has often been considered a full sized copy of the famous American city. This Chinese administrative region with its special status has been completely transformed over a few years to become a new gaming destination for millionaires and other big spenders from around the globe.
History of Macau and its transformation
Macau was returned to China in 1999 having been occupied by the Portuguese during the 17th century. Situated on a peninsula just an hour from Hong Kong, Macau built on this proximity to develop its tourism industry. Visitors were quickly attracted by the contrast between its ultra modern buildings and its architectural and historic heritage including some sites on UNESCO’s world heritage list. However the real transformation of Macau began in 2002 when the Macau authorities decided to open up the gambling market to competition even though up until then, Stanley Ho’s large Hong Kong based company had held the gaming monopoly in Macau. The floodgates were open and immense casinos started to spring up like mushrooms completely changing the outlook and atmosphere in the city.
Several Las Vegas magnates were attracted by this very promising market and seriously challenged Stanley Ho’s strong position. Steve Wynn, owner of the famous Bellagio and Mirage casinos and Sheldon Adelson, the powerful chairman of the Las Vegas Sands group both set up there. Macau, with its fairly stable economy became the new leading destination for games of chance. Major players flooded in from all over the world and within only three years Macau’s gaming industry was bringing in more revenue than Las Vegas. In 2006 it had revenue of 7.2 billion dollars compared to 6.6 billion for Las Vegas. So when one takes into account the fact that income has continued to increase, one can really see the extent of this revolution.
Gaming in Macau
Thanks to its new status Macau has really developed its tourism industry over the past few years as thousands of tourists passing through Hong Kong arrive in its casinos. Once they arrive, they become caught up in the exciting atmosphere in the city’s casinos found in most of the large hotels. Gaming is everywhere in this paradise where all of one’s dreams could come true. There is a full range of games available: blackjack, baccarat, poker, roulette and slot machines. There are almost 10 000 gaming machines and 4 000 tables spread around the city. Asia’s largest poker tournaments take place in Macau every year including the Asian Poker Tour, the World Series of Poker (WSOP) and the EPT.
Macau’s main casinos
Macau has some of the largest casinos in the world and among these the following really stand out:
- The Venetian Macau : is the largest casino in the world and also the largest hotel in Asia. Its 4500 slot machines and 850 tables are situated in a completely luxurious and even larger than the original, copy of the Las Vegas Venetian. The hotel has 3000 suites, 350 shops as well as a huge 15 000 seat stadium. Its construction cost Sheldon Adelson’s Las Vegas Sands group 2.4 billion dollars.
- City of Dreams Macau: Not far from the Venetian, this hotel resort owned by Lawrence Ho and James Packer has 1400 luxurious rooms and 14 restaurants. Its casino has 1350 slot machines and 520 gaming tables.
- Ponte 16 Casino: A partner of the French Accor group, Ponte 16 is a magnificent 423 room resort of 25 000m2 situated in the historic centre of Macau. Its casino has 150 gaming tables and 320 slot machines. The resort is well known for its collection of Michael Jackson memorabilia.MGM Macau: A partnership between the casino magnate Stanley Ho’s daughter and the North American MGM group resulted in one of the largest land based casinos in the world. Opened in 2007, this 20 000m2 resort has 600 rooms and 12 restaurants. Its casino has 410 gaming tables and 835 slot machines.
- Grand Lisboa Casino: This huge building on Macau’s Avenida de Lisboa contains 650 rooms and 6 restaurants. The hotel which opened in 2007 belongs to Stanley Ho. The casino has 480 slot machines and 240 gaming tables.