When most people think about luxurious hotels, grand casinos and a gambling holiday they immediately think of Las Vegas and if not Las Vegas it is Monte Carlo they speak about. These two gambling havens are probably the best known in the world but it is Macau that trumps them all in terms of amount of money bet each year.
Macau is one of two special administrative regions of the People’s Republic of China, 60 kilometres south-west of the other, Hong Kong. The tiny colony, only 29.3 square kilometres, is home to just 546,200 people but every year hundreds of thousands of gamblers descend on it in the hope of winning a small fortune.
Gambling has been legal in Macau since the 1850s when the then Portuguese government legalised the activity in the colony, mainly as a way of raising much needed tax revenue. Back then only Chinese games, such as Fan-Tan and Pai Gow were played but during the 20th Century the Western-style casino games began to filter through.
This process was accelerated in 2002 when the government abolished the casino and gambling monopoly which allowed a number of Las Vegas based companies obtain licences to operate in Macau. Household names such asWynn Resorts, Las Vegas Sands, Galaxy Entertainment Group and the MGM Mirage all now have operations in Macau.
There are 33 casinos in total in Macau though the most impressive is The Venetian Macau. It is the largest single structure hotel in the whole of Asia and is the fourth largest building by area in the entire world! Over its 550,000 square feet of gaming space there are 3,400 slot machines and 800 gambling tables!
Macau is sometimes referred to as The Monte Carlo of the Orient though it generates far more money through its gambling industry. In 2006 Macau overtook Las Vegas as the number one gambling area in the world and the taxes generated by the industry now account for over 70% of Macau’s economy.