Macau (also spelled as Macao) has become the gambling capital of the world having left Las Vegas far behind. In 2012 the total revenue of all casinos of Las Vegas was about US $6 billion. In the same year casinos of Macau earned over US $38 billion, and that was only the official revenue, the above-water part of the iceberg, many people believe.
In China gambling is practically prohibited. However, in two special administrative regions, Hong Kong and Macau, regulations are not as strict as in the mainland China.
In Europe and North America most people, if they gamble at all, gamble for fun, for the thrill they get from the process. All people, except those who got hooked on gambling, understand, that, on average, they lose more money than they win, and they accept this loss as a payment for the fun.
For the Chinese people gambling is a serious occupation. They gamble for winning money. Quite often businessmen come to Macau to win money for development of their businesses. Of course, they lose on average, but they keep aiming at winning, and they are very superstitious about that.
Unlike in European or North American casinos, you cannot expect free drinks in casinos of Macau; the maximum you can expect is free tea. If you want booze, you have to pay lavishly for it.
In Vegas people are laughing when they play, when they win and even when they lose. In Macau people are serious and concentrated as if they were dealers considering a commercial project.
In Vegas people play various games. In Macau they are not playing poker, or blackjack, or backgammon, or roulette. Almost all of them are playing baccarat. Over 80% of revenues are generated by this game alone.
Another striking thing is the amounts of money people gamble with. At most tables in Vegas the minimum bet can be US $5 or $10. In Macau at several cheapest tables the minimum bet is US $15, while the average table is US $70 to $80 per hand. In the VIP suites it’s off the scale, the minimum bet is typically US $50 thousand to US $100 thousand per hand. Croupiers working at the VIP tables say that bets of US $2 million or more are not uncommon there.
The Chinese government does not permit people to take more than 20 thousand renminbi (yuans) out of the country, even to the special administrative regions. Those who want to gamble more, have to find a way around this limitation. And there are private companies that help rich gamblers to come to Macau and to bring their money “more or less legally”.
Macau is also a convenient place for money laundering. Criminals and corrupt state officials use their wins in casinos for explaining where their money comes from. “We do not steal or embezzle or do illegal business,” they say, – “we win this money in Macau.”
This text is based on the information presented in the Business Daily BBC radio programme.