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Macau the new Las Vegas

Macau is first and foremost about casinos. The vast majority of the 27 million tourists that visit the city do not come to taste the national delicacy saudade, which we will cover in another article, but rather for the “casino fever”. In the course of the last decade, all the colonial churches and historical buildings left from centuries of Portuguese domination have been dwarfed by some of the most impressive casino and hotel complexes in the world including the Venetian Casino which outstrips any existing casino on the Las Vegas Strip today. Since 2007, Macau has become the gambling capital of the world, surpassing Las Vegas in terms of casino revenue. Interestingly, Macau is the sole territory of the people's Republic of China to host casinos and where gambling is legalized. Given the well documented Chinese passion for gambling, it is little surprise to learn that casino revenues in Macau exceeded $10 billion in 2009.

Casinos of Macau

macau lisboa Close to the centre is the historical Casino Lisboa which evokes the yesteryear Macau with its busy and smoke-filled game rooms. Directly across the street is the Grand Lisboa, a gigantic golden coloured building shaped like a pineapple (or a lotus flower as it is based on) with multiple gambling floors and hotel rooms. These two great casinos of Macau belong to the local magnate Stanley Ho.

But Mr. Ho has much to preoccupy himself with the competition. Since Macau became the new Eldorado of gambling, it became prey to property developers. The surrounding wastelands, located between the islands of Taipa and Coloane are now being developed at an alarming rate, full of towering cranes and construction sites. Over the coming years, brand new casinos will spring up where wetlands used to be. The latest sensational casino is the MGM Grand Macau, with two great golden lions ten metres high at the main entrance, each weighing in at 60 tonnes!

The Venetian Macau is a replica of the famous Las Vegas casino and grander still. Built in the heart of a no man's land 5km built over the sea, between Taipa and Coloane. It is the largest and most imposing gaming complex and the largest building in the world, second only to the Boeing plant. Rising up out of nowhere, the Venetian Macau has near life-size famous monuments of the city of Venise, such as Plaza San Marco, the Ponte Rialto and the Campanile. Meanwhile, Vivaldi is broadcast on loop over the speakers, adding to the surreal nature of the place.

A large scale casino

Inside, everything is gilded, with thousands of slot machines, 850 table games, 3,000 hotel rooms! On the third floor of the building, five hundred metre long channels with gondolas, reminiscent of the Grand Canal sail under the replica facades of Venetian Palaces and luxury clothes shops. One year after opening, the Venetian has been visited by over 20 million Chinese, happy to find one of the most beautiful European cities only a few kilometres from Canton, if only a pale imitation. Still a mirage of the West in this astonishing Macau.