Macau, the Casino Capital- A Look Back at 2011 and Forwards to 2011

Posted on December 21st, 2011

Las Vegas has long been regarded as the casino capital of the world. The bright lights of the Vegas Strip attract around 36.7 million tourists from around the world, each keen to try their luck in any one of 74 casinos in Vegas, 29 of which are on the world famous Las Vegas Strip.
But in recent times, there’s been a new kid on the block- a young pretender that has shown up in the casino world. In 2006, the little-known region of Macau overtook Vegas as the world’s biggest casino centre and is showing no signs of letting Vegas take back the crown that it held for so long.
The small region to the south of China, formally a Portuguese territory, has long had gambling at the heart of its economy and, like Vegas, benefits from the fact that gambling remains either illegal or severely restricted in many surrounding regions, most notably China itself.
As a result, some 10.5m visitors from China alone and many more from across Asia flock to Macau, pumping an estimated $6.8bn (£3.6bn) into the local gambling economy every year – some $200m more than the total casino turnover in Las Vegas. The figure is even more staggering when you consider that Macau has no online casino economy and 46 fewer casinos.
The casino boom for Macau came in 2001 when the territory left Portuguese rule and was handed back to China. A year later, competition rules that meant that certain operators who held a monopoly on casinos in the region (err..ie Stanley Ho) were relaxed, opening the floodgates for foreign operators to move in and start building Macau into the tourist and gaming metropolis that it is today.
MGM Grand and Wynn, both big names on the Vegas Strip, were amongst the first to move there and Macau even has its very own answer to the Venetian, currently the largest of 28 casinos currently operating in the country.
The Venetian isn’t going to hold on to the title for long however, with the $1bn, 420,000sq ft ‘City of Dreams’ complex, the first ever underwater casino, due to open later this year. Once that has been completed, work is then expected to start on the next big project – the Macau Studio City which, when built, will boast 500,000sq ft of casino space. That means that by the end of this year, Macau could boast more than 2.3m sq-ft of casino space and as many as 11,000 slot machines – more than twice the amount currently found in Las Vegas.
It’s certainly enough to get casino bosses and tourism officials in Nevada panicking, with Las Vegas currently investing around $20m and working to attract major events such as big-time boxing to the Strip in an attempt to retain its casino crown. We’ll have to wait to see if the tactic works but with many other Asian regions looking enviously at Macau’s success, Vegas could end up with even more competition yet. Singapore, Philippines and Vietnam anyone? No? Hainan Island, China then. I can hear the Las Vegans shaking in their boots as I write.
“讓我們玩骰寶! (Or Let’s Play Sic Bo!”)
Top Tip- if you go to Macau, rather than stay on the Cotai Strip, stay at the Westin Macau Resort. It’s a short taxi drive from all the casino action on the Cotai Strip, but it could be a million miles away. Overlooking Hac Sa Beach and the sea- a great place to unwind and a taste of “Old Macau” of “Man With The Golden Gun” days.

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