China

Booming Macau

The tourist invasion of the gambler’s paradise.

The Las Vegas of the East, the gambling town par excellence, one of the richest places on the planet (it is due to overtake Qatar in 2020) – it is, of course, Macau. The former Portuguese colony was returned to Chinese control in 1999, but with one particularity: it is the only place in China where gambling and casinos are legal. Macau – known by the Chinese as Aomén – is famous for two things: money (it is a tax haven) and the tourists attracted by the roulette, poker and slot machines. Here one in five inhabitants works in a casino and more than 70% of government revenues is derived from gambling, an activity that brings wealth (in excess of 30 billion dollars a year) and that in 2018 alone attracted almost 36 million visitors to Macau.

Paradoxically, this is too many: the optimal capacity for the area is no higher than 33 million tourists, while the annual figure is due to reach to 40 million by 2025. Consequently, the local legislative assembly is considering introducing a limit. But how? On 23 October 2018 the world’s longest bridge was opened: 55 km that connects Honk Kong to Macau and from the following day thousands of tourists, in cars, arrived in the casinos of Macau. “We are being invaded by tourists, our genuine wealth could lead to our collapse,” explained Maria de Senna, director of the tourist office. “Our solution? Move beyond the casinos and diversify, opening new museums, shopping centres and theme parks.”

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