Gambling in Macau
Macau has been the No. 1 international gambling destination since it overtook Las Vegas in 2007. The small peninsula on the South Coast of China now generates more revenue than Vegas and Atlantic City combined. To understand the evolution of gambling in Macau, we need to take a step back and examine the region’s unique history. How did an 11-square-mile area in China become so distinct?
In 1557, Portugal started renting the uninhabited peninsula, which was ideally situated for trade. The Portuguese set up a colony and profited from shipping Chinese goods back home to Portugal and facilitating trade between China and Japan. Chinese workers started moving to Macau for trade and employment opportunities, and shortly after, Chinese gambling houses started popping up.
The First Opium War took place between 1839-1842, and it weakened the Chinese economy. Hong Kong was surrendered to Britain and treaty ports opened for international trade. Portugal took advantage of the situation and strong-armed the Chinese government into relinquishing control of Macau in 1887.
The new ports built in Hong Kong negatively impacted Macau’s economy. And on top of that, Macau was charged with financially providing for two new colonies; a new source of income was in need. By that time, hundreds of gambling houses were operating in Macau, replica orologi rolex so in 1847, the government began issuing tax-generating gambling licenses.
With so many licenses to keep track of, it became difficult to keep on top of the industry, so in order to streamline things, the government in Macau replaced the licensing system with a monopoly. In the 1930s, all rights were given to a syndicate, who had to pay tax and perform duties as requested by the government. One of the first governmental requests was to attract tourists. Outsiders thought the gambling houses were dingy, so the syndicate improved their appearances and added new amenities, such as food and entertainment.
The monopoly changed hands a couple times before it wound up with the Sociedade de Turismo e Diversoes de Macau (STDM). As per the government’s request, the STDM performed a number of upgrades, including improving maritime travel between Macau and Hong Kong and adding Western-style games to casinos. Macau became the destination of choice for Chinese gamblers.
The Portuguese tried to relinquish control of Macau on two occasions in the latter half of the twentieth century, due to Chinese riots and a revolution in Portugal that extinguished colonial policies. China rejected the offers, but it was clear that Portugal struggled controlling the region. Triads, Chinese crime syndicates, started frequenting VIP casinos, which resulted in violence.
The Chinese government cracked down on crime in the late ‘90s, and in 1999, China finally accepted the territory from the Portuguese, making it a Special Administrative Region for themselves. The status means that Macau will maintain its own political, economical and legal systems for 50 years. We’ll see what happens in 2049, but for now, Macau is well positioned to continue catering to tourists who enjoy recreational gambling.