Macau Gambling Culture – A Comparison with Canada

Having recently visited Macau it was interesting to witness the similarities and differences in gambling culture. Macau, known as the Las Vegas of Asia, is home to gamblers from all over Asia, most notably China in addition to Singapore, South Korea, Japan and India. Casinos are intertwined exclusively with hotels and there are no separate casinos that form a strip like Las Vegas or the gambling halls in Canada, although there are sky lifts connecting hotels to form a “sky strip” in a sense. Each hotel hosts similar casino games on their first floors and above that are shopping malls featuring the biggest luxury names such as Dolce and Gabana and Versace to name a few. Macau aims to bring an all-in-one experience to its visitors and does it quite well.

Casinos are illegal in pretty much ever Asian country expect for Macau due to concern over problem gaming and money laundering. Despite Macau officially being a part of China now, it is nevertheless under a different system of governance similar to Hong Kong and thus the rules against gambling are loose. This is now attracting Chinese consumers by the thousands who are now economically well off to throw around money. And that they do in a way unlike any other culture today.

Chinese have been gambling since the time of the Shang Dynasty when turtle shells were used for determine events. Some people believed in turtle shell carvings to be a divine tool for making educated decisions while others in fact were not persuaded to such an extent but yet took enjoyment in betting on what predictions would come true. Much like casinos, these events were done over alcohol and Chinese were more than willing to put forth their earnings from rice or other crops to make a wager. Additionally, popular board games including Mahjong over the years were accompanied by wagering well into the early 1900s and gambling in place such as Macau and even Shanghai was very popular, especially among the elite.

Following the Culture Revolution in China, however, China banned gambling as part of its efforts to restructure its economy and become more aligned with progress for the plebeians, as gambling was considered an elite game that no longer was relevant to the progress of China. Despite this law occurring throughout the nation, Macau, which was still under separate jurisdiction, remain unaffected and took itself on as an entertainment area for the Chinese to escape to. It has remained that way since despite returning to China’s one system, two policy trademark and is likely to never change as the island is now filled with hotels and investments from many Chinese organizations such as construction companies that are also affiliated with governments.

The biggest difference structural wise in Macau is that all hotels are essentially casinos and all casinos are hotels that also happen to come equipped with shopping and restaurant choices beyond what one can choose from. There are no convenient stores nearby and all casinos take advantage of hiking food prices as high as possible while the hotels make you add on additional deposits upon your arrival that were not otherwise stated in major print. This gets consumers to think of their deposit as a pool for spending as everything from restaurant purchases to goods can be deducted from your room number deposit. Everything there is a connected business and it is only expanding as another 5-7 major casino halls that size of the Ventian, Macau’s largest and most popular hall, are expected to be finished within the next 1-2 years. Macau doesn’t just aim to bring casino games to consumers, it aims to bring everything in a one-stop experience, and luxury goods are a high selling point due to their cheaper prices compared with the mainland.

The Chinese are obsessed with Baccarat and no so much slots like Canadians. This is probably due to the fact that when Chinese want to gamble they want to throw down huge amounts and are more interested in engaging in some sort of strategy-based game. 21 is also a huge game, with most tables in major casino halls including the Venetian and Sheraton starting bets at $60-200 per chip, Most gamblers had well over $1,000 on the table and had looks of insatiable desire to win.

In Canadian and US casinos, there is more of a festive and casual approach to playing some of the games but in Macau it is all business. Perhaps the reason being that gambling is such a rarity that people only have one chance to make it big or perhaps it is because Chinese take their money very seriously. Whatever the case may be, it lacked the fun and enthusiastic atmosphere you get in North America and was may more affective at isolating consumers in the casinos.

There are plenty of shows to go around in the casinos much like Vegas and other Canadian halls and prostitution is very evident but not obvious like it is in Vegas where you can see advertisements. The Chinese say if you see a woman half the age of an older man together she is either a hooker or a “second set of boobs” that gets spoiled from the Chinese guy on his holidays. These girls were far too many to count but were good at keeping it low profile.

Canadians would probably find Macau both interesting and dull. Interesting aspects means taking in the Chinese experience and dull meaning lagging that fun and interactive experience you get with friends going to a casino. Plus, there are so many Chinese tourists bumping into everyone that you constantly feel pressured to watch where you are walking, making it hard to relax. Overall, Canucks should be thankful for their local gambling halls and access to online platforms as both are non-existent in many parts of the world, including most of China.

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