It's the gambling capital of the world, but there are plenty of ways to spend your winnings or forget about your losings
Macanese cuisine combines Chinese and Portuguese styles
Macau is the world's most densely populated place
Residents have one of the world's highest life expectancy rates
It’s been six years – 2007, if you’re into counting numbers – since the once sleepy fishing port of Macau surpassed Las Vegas as the world leader in gambling revenue.
We love the flash. And the occasional winning night at the tables.
But there’s a slower side to this city of just less than 600,000 residents in southern China, one of cobblestone lanes, colonial mansions, art deco buildings and tranquil parks, all done in a fusion of Chinese and Portuguese motifs.
The best part is that Macau (just an hour from Hong Kong by ferry) is compact, making it a breeze to explore.
Here’s a primer.
1. Baccarat is the game of choice
Macau is the gambling capital of the world.
By far the most popular game is baccarat, a relatively simple game with a low house advantage (less than 1%). Baccarat tables dominate the city’s 33 casinos.
There are plenty of slot machines as well, but they offer a high house advantage and aren’t popular. This is the reverse of Las Vegas where gamblers favor slots.
Macau’s revenue from gambling is $33 billion, more than five times that of the Las Vegas Strip.
Tycoon Stanley Ho’s 40-year reign as the city’s casino kingpin came to an end in 2002 when the Macau government ended the monopoly system.
Today, there are six casino operators: SJM Holdings (Stanley Ho), Wynn Macau, Sands China, Galaxy Entertainment Group, MGM China Holdings and Melco Crown Entertainment.
2. Macau was the first and last European colony in China
The Portuguese settled in Macau in the 16th century and the island was handed back to China in 1999.