Macau is a city that benefits from special administrative regulations as part of China. Although it only has a population of around 700,000, the city’s entire area is 32.9 sq km. Consequently, this makes it the most densely populated region in the world. And if that wasn’t enough, Macau relies on tourism for its economy, gambling tourism. Yes, Macau may seem like a small city in China to some, but the truth is that it is the world’s gambling capital. It overtook Las Vegas more than a decade ago and continues to grow and improve. Here, we will take a closer look at Macau and how it became the massive casino hub.
The History of Macau
First, we should look at a quick history recap on Macau. The city was once a Portuguese colony, leased by the Ming dynasty to Portugal in 1557. Portugal paid rent to the Ming dynasty and administered the territory according to Chinese rules as part of the agreement. Then, in 1887, Portugal gained colonial rights over Macau. Nevertheless, this remained the case until 1999, when Macau was transferred back to China.
While it started as a group of coastal islands with few inhabitants, Macau proliferated as a resort city. Therefore, it attracted casino operators and players, becoming a top destination for tourists interested in gambling. The tourism growth caught the attention of the biggest casino operators in the world. Indeed, this led to the expansion of the casino market even further.
Developers even reclaimed land from the sea to grow the available land area. In fact, more than two-thirds of the total Macau land area was below sea level not that long ago.
Macau Gambling Laws
Macau is now a unique administrative region, meaning it has different laws and regulations than mainland China. In Macau, casino gaming, poker, bingo, sports betting, and lotteries are all legal. Operators are required to have active licenses to offer these forms of gambling in the state. Also, note that these only apply in land-based retail form. Online gambling is not regulated yet in the region, with the exception of sports betting. Licensed operators can offer remote sports betting options in Macau.
Other forms of online gambling are prohibited since licensed operators don’t provide them. With that being said, there are plenty of online gambling sites that accept players from Macau. Online gambling in the region is somewhat of a gray area where users can join and bet real money. However, since the operators aren’t locally licensed, they don’t pay taxes to the local government. Nonetheless, this doesn’t affect players, although some may argue that they aren’t safe. Ergo, it is imperative to only go with reliable and trusted casinos when it comes to offshore gambling.
The Growth of Gambling in Macau
In just a few decades, Macau became the world’s gambling capital due to globalization and the rise of China. Of course, this isn’t really enough to paint the complete picture. Many factors contributed to the success of casinos in Macau. However, these two stand out as the main driving forces.
The industry benefited a lot from globalization because it brought the biggest and most experienced companies in one place. Foreign casino companies from the USA, Europe, and Australia brought priceless experiences to Macau. The new territory filled with potential allowed operators to build new and impressive casinos.
Meanwhile, the economic prosperity in China allowed its citizens to travel in great numbers. And with gambling being illegal in China, many chose to travel to Macau for some gambling fun. In fact, wealthy Chinese business people have always been at the core of gambling in Macau.
Macau started by catering to high rollers, unlike other gambling cities where operators focus on attracting more casual players. As a result, entire casinos have been built here around high-spending players. Features include VIP rooms with special access, exclusive privileges, and professional services that live up to the VIP brand. So it is no surprise that those big spenders accounted for more than 66% of total casino revenue in Macau.
Also known as whales, high casino rollers in Macau mostly come from mainland China. However, there is also essential traffic from Hong Kong and other parts of the world. Successful businessmen fly from the USA and Europe to Macau in order to play casino games. The luxurious casinos and the features that come with them make the city more appealing than Las Vegas.
Only in more recent years did Macau focus more on the mass market entertainment sector. Operators have been looking to expand and take advantage of the increased tourism. Also, not having to rely on a small group of players means taking more negligible risks. There were also some influences from the government that wanted to encourage diversification and attract exhibitions and events. The goal is to increase the number of attractions and not just rely on casino games.
More tourists are expected to come thanks to a new bridge that connects Macau to Hong Kong. It makes traveling between the two regions much more accessible, so more people can access the casinos.
Macau officially became the gambling capital of the world in 2010. Inevitably, this is when it saw more gambling revenue than the entire Nevada state. However, fast-forward another decade, and the gap has only gotten bigger. In 2019, Macau generated around $36.7 billion, compared to the $24.5 billion revenue generated from gambling in Nevada.
Online Gambling in Macau
As we’ve covered before, Macau doesn’t have licensed online gambling sites other than remote sports betting. So even though it does have some of the largest casinos in the world, customers can’t play games online. In contrast, Nevada has legalized online gambling and already has several online casinos and poker rooms.
The good news is that there is a pretty simple way around the lack of licensed online casinos in Macau. And that is to bet real money at offshore online casinos. Keep in mind that not all online casinos will accept players from the region. The best options are the top online casinos licensed in Curacao and Panama. While these generally focus on the USA market, they also accept players from Macau and other parts of China. There are also international online casino operators licensed in Malta that are very accommodating to Macau players. As a result, there are plenty of online casinos for interested users in the Chinese territory, offering different incentives for its players. The no deposit bonus is one of the most sought-after.
The Macau Experience
While the convenience of online gambling is difficult to match, Macau aims to attract players in different ways. It is not just about the games since players are often better off betting on the internet. Instead, Macau is all about a unique experience to the region and maybe to the entire world.
Its location is definitely a big selling point since it is the only place in China with legal gambling. However, that isn’t enough to explain the many tourists that visit it throughout the year. For example, the Venetian casino in Macau attracts more than 100,000 tourists during the Chinese New Year. It is the biggest casino in the world, with more than 550,000 square feet of gaming space. To put this in perspective, the Venetian Las Vegas is the second-largest casino at 120,000 square feet. Visitors at the Venetian can go on gondola rides and experience a piece of Venice with a casino twist.
While the Venetian in Macau looks precisely like the one in Las Vegas, there are some differences. For example, the layout inside was designed with the help of feng shui experts, who make sure that everything flows perfectly. Also, players receive complimentary tee and not beer like in Sin City.
Differences between Macau and Las Vegas continue when looking at the bigger picture. For example, the most popular casino game in the world’s gambling capital is not roulette or blackjack. Instead, Asian players prefer baccarat, and so casinos offer a lot more baccarat tables. Furthermore, it is not a new thing either. In 2008 baccarat generated 85% of casino revenues in Macau.
At the end of the day, the players are the most significant difference between Macau and Las Vegas. Regular people go to Las Vegas to have some fun and bet for amusement. In Macau, players seem a lot more serious. There isn’t much cheering or groaning on the casino floor. Customers are focused on the games and not on much else. You might hear a table thud between the rustle of the chips, but not much beyond that.
The difference in culture can explain the difference in mentality. In the Chinese region, saving money is very important. As a result, the only gambling location can be seen as an opportunity to win more. Plus, superstitious players are also encouraged by the great fortunes throughout the casino. As a result, this can translate into good luck for them as well.
The Future of Macau
As every gambler will tell you, it is challenging to predict the future. However, various aspects can influence its success in the years to come when it comes to Macau. As far as the client base is concerned, Macau casinos now mostly rely on the Chinese middle class. That gives it an advantage with the growing economy in China. The middle class is expanding rapidly, and so the casinos can expect to see even more tourists on the floors.
The main concern is the Chinese government. In 2021, Chinese officials announced that they were planning to change some Macau regulations and tighten restrictions. There was even e mention of an authority that would supervise casino companies in the gambling hub. The focus seems to be on changing how licenses are allocated, how many operators get licenses, and for how long. Furthermore, this may also come with higher costs and taxes if the number of licenses goes down. The popularity of Macau and the somewhat loose regulations attracted the most prominent casino companies in the past.
The added regulations can be discouraging for investors, especially for foreign companies. Added restrictions, restrained movement, and added taxes can all seem problematic. And the news comes after the worst year in recent history for the casinos in Macau. Due to the pandemic and the resulting restrictions for traveling, gambling revenue in 2020 dropped by more than 80%.
Overall, Macau did bounce back towards the end of 2021, and it seems to be getting back on track. It remains to be seen what actual measures the Chinese government takes to restrict operators. For now, Macau remains the gambling capital of the world, and it doesn’t look like that will change anytime soon.