How did Macao become the world’s casino capital?Macao’s huge gambling success did not happen overnight. Back in 1930, the local government launched a monopoly franchise system for gambling houses. Thirty years later, the industry thrived after Stanley Ho obtained the monopoly concession to operate casinos and lotteries and started to build his multibillion-dollar empire. The casino tycoon led the transformation of Macao into the Las Vagas of Asia.
As of 2019, six companies are authorized to operate a total of 41 casinos in the city. These large firms include some of the famous casino developers in Las Vegas, such as Las Vegas Sands, MGM, and Wynn Resorts. In fact, some of the largest casino resort complexes in the world are in Macao and they were modeled like their sister casinos in Las Vegas, but bigger and more luxurious. The Venetian Casino Resort in Macao is the largest casino resort in the world where Italian streets and canals were copied. The resort itself has a hotel with 3,000 rooms and a shopping mall with hundreds of premier stores.
Macao’s vibrant gambling sceneGames played in casinos were called games of fortune in Macao. Among the 28 types of games available in Macao’s casinos, baccarat, slot machines, cussec (sic bo) are the most popular. VIP Baccarat, usually played in VIP rooms, contributes the most to casino revenues. Different from other gambling destinations in the world, the main business of Macao’s large casinos takes place in these VIP rooms where high-risk games are held. Since the amount of bets are extremely high in VIP rooms, these places were often suspected to be associated with money laundering and other financial crimes.
In 2015, the VIP room business took the hardest hit from Beijing’s anti-corruption campaigns, leading to an economic slump in 2015 and 2016. This has driven the Chinese gambling paradise to move towards a family-friendly vacation destination for a broader range of visitors instead of relying too much on the VIP casino sector.