Roll of the Dice: Chinese City Takes on Vegas

Their hope is that families will come and stay for several days, as they now do in Las Vegas.

To make certain the kids have something to do, there is already a sprawling new 24-hour theme park along the waterfront. In the posh “Tryst” nightclub at the Wynn, well-heeled customers dance under crystal chandeliers or slip into plush red velvet sofas to sip expensive Cristal champagne.

Most of the gamblers were day-trippers from Hong Kong, who would head home flush or broke at the end of the night.

Forget Monte Carlo, Atlantic City, even Las Vegas. Macau had long been known throughout Asia as a gambling mecca, but was dominated by a tawdry gambling scene, seedy nightlife and a fair share of corruption and vice.

“We earned back our investment in this property in nine or 10 months,” he says. “Fisherman’s Wharf” is jammed with a variety of restaurants, tourist shops, carnival rides, and faux wonders of the world — a “forbidden city,” a “Roman coliseum,” and 130-foot volcano that spews fire every night at sunset (so high into the sky that the eruptions have to be delayed when the local tourist helicopter flies in for a landing).

For the big-spenders, there is also more sophisticated entertainment.

Fun for Young and Old

With the encouragement of the Macau government, the newest casinos are also selling themselves as resort destinations for the entire family — offering recreation facilities, organized tours, health clubs, and exotic spas. The sleepy coastal backwater, an hour ferry ride away from Hong Kong, seems set to surpass Vegas to become the gambling capital of the world.

“We get great feedback; people love it,” say the very excited American managers, Cy Waits and Shawn Chester.

It has been a stunning transformation for this former Portuguese colony. People are betting over your backs, four or five people deep.”

Veterans of the Vegas club scene, Waits and Chester are amazed by the passion for gambling and spending they now see in Macau.

The casinos are doing everything they can to keep it that way.

American casino magnate Steve Wynn opened a glitzy, Vegas-style resort on Macau. The Sands group built what is now the world’s biggest casino here, and others have followed suit.

The result has been Southeast Asia’s own version of the Vegas strip, complete with all of the glamour and grandeur you’d expect, from lavish fountains to neon lights. “That is a successful investment by anybody’s standard.”

A Vegas Facelift

But, in recent years, Macau has undergone a multi-million dollar facelift. Since the Chinese government allowed foreign casinos to begin operating on Macau in 1991, major players have been setting up shop and cashing in.

“When things are really kicking in the casino,” says Chester, “you can’t get a seat at a table [where betting is] at $20,000 a hand. It seems to be a bet that is paying off in spades.

Stephen Weaver, the vice president of Asian development for the Sands, says the investment in Macau has paid off for the casinos.

Lucky Eights and Dragons

If you’re feeling lucky, then you might want to book a ticket to Macau.

The gaming revenues in the Chinese-held territory are expected to top $6.8 billion this year, slightly more cash than Las Vegas’ casinos will bring in.

Posted April 20th, 2015 in Uncategorized.

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