To many people who don’t live on the continent of Asia it literally seems as if Macau casino gaming has come out of nowhere to establish itself as a premier casino gambling destination. After all, it wasn’t until the end of the 20th century that Macau ceased to be a Portuguese colony and became a special administrative region of China. But since then, Macau has become a major rival to Las Vegas casino gaming as THE place to visit for gamblers, and some people think the peninsula will eventually stand in a class by itself. Let’s take a look at how Macau got to this point.
Long before Macau earned any of its nicknames such as the “Sin City of the Far East” or the “Monte Carlo Casino Destination of the Orient” it was merely a sleepy Portuguese colony. And while the Portuguese dominance in the region may not have always been welcomed in Macau, the government did do a lot to shape what the area has become today. But it wasn’t exactly done in the most ethical way.
Using the 11 mile strip of land as a base for its trading activities with China and Japan, Portugal’s Macau government decided to make the pivot point a full-blown, hedonistic casino gaming paradise. It legalized gambling and prostitution, allowed free opium usage, and turned a blind eye to contraband. Those that got wrapped up in all of the existing carnal pleasures and couldn’t pay their way out became indentured servants. This cycle continued throughout the 1800’s and on into the 1900’s with casino gaming.
The Opening of Casinos
Up until 1937 there was no real organization of the gambling activities in Macau. However, a lot of that changed when the Tai Xing Company was given the rights to operate casinos in the area. Basically, the Tai Xing Company held a monopoly over all the casino action in Macau but didn’t take full advantage of the opportunity since they only offered Chinese games in their establishments.
The Macau government quickly realized that more tourism could be brought into the area if it broadened the range of gambling activities. So it turned the casino monopoly over to Stanley Ho (a.k.a. Dr. Stanley Ho) in 1962 after he paid half a million US Dollars. Ho quickly broadened the horizons of the Macau casino gambling scene and set up easy transportation links so residents of nearby Hong Kong had easy access to the peninsula. The amount of tourists coming into Macau skyrocketed and so did the local economy. By the end of Ho’s casino monopoly, Macau had established its status as one of the major gambling havens in the world.
Though Stanley Ho was clearly a strong influence in driving Macau’s gambling and tourism industries through the roof, the region’s reputation took a big hit during his monopoly. Crime was high in Macau and the area wasn’t looked at as a family destination in any kind of way. However, much of that reputation has changed in modern Macau since a new era has been ushered in along with a more refined reputation.
Now Macau is the perfect symbol of big business: The 11 mile area is currently home to 26 casinos, and there are already big plans to add to this number. In fact, 30 Western-style casinos are in the works, and most of them will be completed by the year 2009. Macau’s gambling revenues actually eclipsed its only true rival in Las Vegas last year, and the gap is only expected to widen in forthcoming years. It’s safe to say that the former Portuguese colony hasn’t done too badly for itself and the future looks very bright for Macau casino gaming.