Friday, April 6, 2012

Macau's Gambling World

Given my recent explorations of Macau, it seems particularly appropriate to share the new article "The God of Gamblers - Why Las Vegas is moving to Macau" by Evan Osnos in The New Yorker. It provides an eye-opening account of Macau's gambling world -- a world that has caught the attention of several American (or at least previously American) companies and has in many ways surpassed Las Vegas:
In 2006, Steve Wynn, who led a revival of Las Vegas in the nineteen-nineties, opened a casino in Macau; he makes more than two-thirds of his global profits there. He is learning to speak Chinese, and he talks about moving his corporate headquarters to Macau. “We’re really a Chinese company now, not an American company,” he has said. Macau has become especially attractive to American corporations in the last few years. In Nevada, after tourism sank in 2008, gaming revenue plunged by nearly twenty per cent in two years, the largest decline in the state’s history. It later improved, but Nevada still has the highest unemployment and foreclosure rates in the country. Gary Loveman, the chairman of Caesars Entertainment, was one of the few casino bosses who passed up a chance to build in Macau. “Big mistake,” he said later. “I was wrong, I was really wrong.”
Although the everyday lives of most people in China remain far from Macau's opulent casinos, the gambling scene touches on some important issues in China. For example, Osnos writes about the Chinese government's reluctance to crack down too much on Macau's gambling-related corruption:
Some officials in Beijing are keen to maintain the enclave’s economic success, because it shows the breakaway island of Taiwan the potential benefits of a return to the motherland. Moreover, Macau is a place where China’s new millionaires can indulge in the gains of their prosperity, which is one of the rewards guaranteed by the unwritten bargain between Chinese leaders and their people for a generation: Don’t concern yourself with the state’s inner workings, and the state will not overly concern itself with yours.
I have observed thousands gamble at the world's largest casino in the Venetian Macau, passed the numerous stores selling luxury items in the City of Dreams, and over the years seen vast empty lots turn into billion dollar complexes. But I have spent most of my relatively brief time in Macau exploring its other sides. So instead of commenting further, I will simply recommend reading the article by Osnos and share just a few photos of places in Macau where plenty of gambling can be found.

The Wynn Macau and behind it the MGM Macau (the tri-colored building)

The Grand Lisboa

The City of Dreams (including the Hard Rock Hotel, the Crown Towers Hotel, and the Grand Hyatt Macau) to the left
and the Venetian Macau to the right