Macau is a special administrative district of China, similar to Hong Kong. It is often called the Sin City of China, a reference to Las Vegas, which it surpassed in gaming revenues in 2007. Gambling has a long history in Macau, dating back to Portuguese colonization in the 1850s. The original casinos were called fantan houses and over 200 were licensed early on by the government. In 1962, a syndicate, called the STDM and run by Hong Kong and Macau entrepreneurs, won a monopoly on all gaming in Macau. STDM introduced many new features, such as Western games, the free bet and enhanced marine transportation between Macau and Hong Kong. The STDM’s monopoly ended in 2001, two years after Macau was transferred from Portugal to China.
A New Era
In 2002, open competition among casinos was allowed for the first time. Although STDM remains a presence in Macau, the opening of the Sands Macau by Sheldon Adelson in 2004 saw the rapid expansion of casinos, to the point where Macau’s economy is driven heavily by gambling. It is estimated that 70 percent of all Macau’s tax revenues are derived from the gaming industry. Of course, no industry is completely divorced from economic cycles, and Macau has had slower growth in recent years.
Like gambling venues across the globe, Macau keeps a very close eye on gambling operations, due in large part to its need for tax revenues. The Gaming Inspection and Coordination Bureau employs hundreds of agents to monitor casino operations. The bureau also keeps a close eye on lotteries and lucky draws. But the bulk of their effort is in policing the 33 casinos currently operating in Macau.
The largest casino is the 3,000 suite Venetian Macau, and it is as super-opulent as its Las Vegas sibling. Macau Peninsula is home for 23 of the casinos, while the remaining ten are located on Taipa Island. No casino can operate without a government franchise. The typical games are offered at Macau casinos, including:
- Slot machines
- Fan Tan
- Sic bo
Other Betting Opportunities
Poker was introduced on Macau in 2007, in both live and electronic formats. Texas hold ’em was legalized in January of 2008, in part popularized by international poker tournaments hosted in Macau. In addition to casino gaming, Macau offers horse racing by the Macau Jockey Club and dog racing at the Canidrome. Bettors can place wages at the tracks, at off-course betting centers, on the Internet, by telephone and via special fast-access terminals.