Macau is the world’s largest and fastest growing gambling market. In April 2010 industry revenue was $1.76billion. Macau’s gambling industry took $10billion in 2007, against Las Vegas’ $6billion.
The scale of the industry amazes. The variety extends from mega-casinos, such as The Venetian, down to the very small premises around Fisherman’s Wharf.
Ordinary Chinese families wager staggering amounts of money on the open casino floor. It is, though, no great secret that the real driver of the industry’s turnover is the very large number of private rooms.
All casinos offer unfeasibly high exchange rates. The one safe bet is using them to change currency.
The Venetian Macau Resort
The Venetian is the anchor development on the Cotai Strip on Macau’s Taipa and Coloane Islands, near the airport. The $2.4billion project, owned by the Las Vegas Sands Corporation, recreates Venice, including St Mark’s Square.
The 40-story Venetian is the largest single structure hotel building in Asia, with 3000 suites. It is also the fourth largest building in the world by area.
The 550,000 sq ft casino has 3400 slot machines and 800 gaming tables. It is divided into four themed gaming areas, Red Dragon, Phoenix, Golden Fish and Imperial House.
There is also a 15,000 seat arena for entertainment and sports events. Performers have included The Police and The Pussycat Dolls.
Retail space is vast at 1,600,000 sq ft. It features major designer names from the worlds of fashion and accessories.
The Lisboa and Grand Lisboa Macau
Casino Lisboa is one of the best known, but older, casino hotel complexes in Macau. It is on the Macau peninsula.
The original buildings were extended in 1991 to give a total 927 hotel rooms. A major feature is A Galera, the Joel Robuchon managed restaurant.
Nearby is the most recent addition to the Stanley Ho empire, the Grand Lisboa. At 258 metres, it is Macau’s second tallest building. It is, though, perhaps better known for its lotus-inspired dome which has the world’s largest number of LED lights at over 1 million.
The Grand Lisboa has 400 hotel rooms. The casino has 240 gaming tables and 750 electronic games. The Crazy Paris Show receives plaudits.
Wynn Macau Resort
Wynn Macau Resort is on the Macau Peninsula. It integrates hotel, restaurants, designer shops, spa and a “Performance Lake”.
The performance lake features an 800,000 gallon fountain. The fountain dances to music.
According to toponlinecasino.my website, Wynn Macau has 600 bedrooms and suites, while its sister, Wynn Encore, offers a further 414 suites, together with private gaming rooms. The receptions feature two old master paintings, Renoir’s “Among the Roses” and Matisse’s “The Persian Robe”
Wynn’s main gaming area is 205,000 sq ft, featuring 200 gaming tables and 350 slot machines. Blackjack, poker, baccarat and roulette are played.
MGM Macau, on the Macau Peninsula, is a 35-story 600 room casino hotel resort, with a 222,000 sq ft split-level casino. The casino has 300 gaming tables and 1,000 slot machines.
The property also has a 1,500-seat theatre, and a 5,500-sq ft nightclub. There is The Grand Ballroom and a 25,000 sq ft Six Senses Spa with 12 treatment areas. Nine restaurants include one on the rooftop with extensive views out over the city and harbour.
Sands Macau, situated on the Macau Peninsula, is set in six acres of waterfront gardens. The hotel comprises 51 suites, all at the premium end of the market. The suites can include in-room saunas, in-room massage areas, karaoke, private plunge pools and butler service.
The casino features showgirls in sequined bikinis and feathers as greeters. There is a 33 metre video screen over the 180 slot machines, featuring fireworks and sunsets. The 40 gaming tables in the 17,000 sq ft Pearl Room cover blackjack, poker, baccarat, sic bo and roulette.
It’s Not All About Money in Macau
For a long time Macau was barely on the world’s map. Hong Kongers loved it for a taste of Europe at the weekend, Mainland Chinese loved it for the casinos all owned by Stanley Ho, and the Macanese – well, they dodged the triads and eeked out a living. Since the casino market was opened up to outside investment the SAR has changed almost beyond recognition. But there’s no need to avoid it if casino’s don’t float the boat – here are some of the nooks and crannies that remind visitors they’re in a historic destination.
Macau – Historic Sites, Nirvana Spa and Bungy Jumping
The façade of St Paul’s – is only the beginning of the historic sites. Take a breather with a view at the Corner Bar and then explore the surrounding narrow streets of wall-to-wall furniture shops, where bargain-hunters will have to haggle hard.
The Lou Lim Lok Garden is one of the places to witness how Asia gets up early, Macau’s oldies taking their morning constitutionals in fan dancing, tai chi and kung fu. Colourful costumes, boogie boxes blaring out Chinese music, and absolute focus first thing in the morning keeps them young. It’s seriously inspirational.
The Ole Protestant Cemetery is full of famous Macanese warriors. Graveyards may be spooky, but this one is quite sunny, next to the Casa Garden. In the middle of Macau’s main island, it feels surprisingly European while being unmistakably Chinese.
The Gaia Fort is a good excuse to stretch the old legs and take some exercise, the road winding up and up to the top of the hill, where canons still point over the water at the Motherland.
Nirvana Spa is away from the casinos, hotels and resorts. A neighbourhood day spa it is owned by Portuguese Cristina Lobo, a model turned therapist turned spa owner, whose alluring Balinese, Indian and Oriental rooms set the scene for some mind-melting, indulgent and most importantly, affordable treatments.
Bungy Jumping is all about losing the breakfast, rather than losing cold, hard cash. The A J Hackett jump at Macau Tower launches off the side of the white elephant of a landmark. It’s de rigeur to scream all the way down.
Coloane Island village and Fernando’s restaurant
Coloane Island village is a one-horse square of Lord Stowe’s egg tart shop and café, a colourful old church overlooking seafood eateries, and some mom-and-pop souvenir stalls of lurid hats. The view? It’s pure China.
Fernando’s is an institution. For decades expats and Hong Kongers have spent the weekend ferrying straight to the infamous restaurant, devouring clams, roast chicken, tomato and onion salads and pitchers of sangria in the barn-like interior.
Taipa, Not Only Cotai
Taipa – is the middle island, and drew the short straw, the Cotai (Co-loane and Tai-pa) reclamation affecting its shores, its ambiance and its visitor numbers. But duck away from the neon and lose track of time within the old town’s narrow alleyways, where communities still congregate as if its still 1988.
Hiking – is a popular weekend idea before brunching. It’s barely believable but it’s possible to take to the hills in Coloane and go for a tramp. Surrounded by green, bird song and fresh air, it’s a totally different world within this surreal SAR.
Macau – The Old Fashioned Way
So, there’s no need to succumb to the neon, the tinking of the one-armed bandits, the 24/7 daylight of the blackjack tables. In Macau there’s plenty to do and see outside, the old fashioned way.
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