Macau is a mecca of slot machines and other games of chance. Legalized gambling has become one of the territory's leading industries since it was instituted in the 19th century. A government gambling franchise operates the casinos in Macau, offering popular Western favorites such as blackjack and craps, as well as Eastern games such as fan tan and dai-siu.
Macau's economy is based largely on tourism (including gambling), textiles and fireworks production.
Visas are not required for citizens of more than 30 countries (including the United States, Canada and the United Kingdom) for stays of fewer than 20 days. For visitors from other nations with diplomatic ties to Portugal, a 20-day visa is granted upon arrival.
More than 484,500 people live in Macau. 95% are Chinese. 3% are Portuguese.
A casino representative says gambling lures Hong Kong residents, in particular. "Because Macau is very close to Hong Kong, it's only about forty miles away, and it's very easy to come over to Macau and the Chinese love gambling," said Juan Michael Swing, a casino floor manager. "And, since there is no gambling in Hong Kong, except horse racing ... they are here."
Macau's architectural attractions reflect the melding of Asian and Western cultures throughout the centuries. The ruins of St. Paul's Cathedral are one popular tourist destination. Japanese Christians helped build the cathedral in 1602. A fire destroyed it in 1835, leaving only the facade and the steps.
Another popular site, Guia Fortress, contains the oldest lighthouse on the Chinese coast. It has been operational since 1865.