Forget Las Vegas, Viva Macau

The Chinese coastal city of Macau has passed Las Vegas as the biggest gambling city in the world. This article from <em>Smithsonian Magazine</em> looks at how it got there.
September 8, 2008, 10am PDT | Nate Berg
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"This 11-square-mile outpost on the Pearl River Delta is the only entity on the Chinese mainland where gambling is legal. And now, almost ten years after shedding its status as a vestige of Portugal's colonial past and re-entering China's orbit, Macau is winning big. 'In 2006 Macau surpassed Las Vegas as the biggest gaming city in the world,' says Ian Coughlan, Wynn Macau president. 'More than $10.5 billion was wagered [last year], and that's just the tip of the iceberg.'"

"But in 1999, the year Portugal formally handed administration of Macau back to the Chinese, the city became a "special administrative region," like Hong Kong after the British turned it over two years earlier. The designation is part of China's policy of "one country, two systems," under which it allows the newly reunited entities autonomy over their own affairs, except in foreign policy and national defense. In 2002, the new Macau government ended Ho's 40-year gambling monopoly and allowed five outside concessionaires, three of them American, to build competing resorts and casinos that would both reflect-and accommodate-China's growing wealth and power. Beijing also made it easier for mainland Chinese to enter Macau."

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Published on Friday, September 5, 2008 in Smithsonian
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