During the last four or five decades, a city in the heart of the Nevada desert has long held the crown as the world’s gambling capital.
It doesn’t take a genius to work out that city is Las Vegas. However, there is a new kid on the block that has not just sought to rival Sin City for its gambling scene, but has usurped it outright. The Special Administrative Region of Macau has recently cemented itself as the world’s most popular gambling city in terms of gaming revenues.
Macau, which used to be a Portuguese colony at the southern tip of mainland China, is now back under control of the Chinese government.
Almost instantly, the government sought to clean up Macau’s gambling industry, which was once heavily influenced by the city’s underground gang culture. The legalisation of its gambling industry almost immediately cleaned up the city’s act and encouraged tourists from elsewhere in mainland China and Hong Kong to enjoy legalised casino action.
Gambling tourism makes up around half of the city’s entire economy; that’s how important casinos are to Macau. In 2007, the city overtook the Las Vegas Strip in terms of gambling revenues and, by 2016, Macau was turning over US$28billion compared with just US$6.3 billion on the Vegas Strip.
What makes Macau such a fascinating place to gamble is that its visitors are obsessed with casino gaming. Unlike Vegas, where some visitors prefer to enjoy the high-end nightclubs, theatres and Michelin-starred restaurants, Macau?s casino-goers live and breathe card games.
However, the most popular card game in Macau is one that’s much less popular in the western world, baccarat.
In fact, baccarat accounts for around 90% of all casino gaming revenue generated in the city. The vast majority of high-roller players, i.e. those with the biggest betting bankrolls, prefer to play baccarat due to its simple rules, and the fact that fate plays a major part in the action.
Chinese bettors are especially superstitious. Certain numbers are notoriously lucky, such as eight and nine, while the number four is deemed wholly unlucky and one to be avoided at all costs.
Poker is also slowly becoming popular in Macau too. Some of the world’s most exclusive cash games are now hosted in Macau?s casinos, attracting the world’s best poker professionals to the Far East.
A great number of Macau’s brick-and-mortar casinos are following the trend of those on the Vegas Strip. The Venetian Macau is a dead ringer for the one in Vegas, complete with indoor canals and gondola rides, and is actually the biggest casino in the world in terms of gaming floor space.
Although Macau is trying hard to turn itself into a holiday destination rather than solely a gaming resort, there is no doubt that the territory will continue to reign supreme as the world’s gambling capital for many years to come. No-one comes close to the sheer volume of card-playing fanatics in this breathless city. There aren’t any legalised online poker platforms in Macau as yet, but when there is, this will further serve to ramp up the city’s gambling revenues.