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History of Gambling in Macau

Macau has been four hundred years of its inception, and gaming industry in Macau also has a long history.  They were almost synchronized.  In the 16th century, the Mainland China people immigrated to Macau.  Most of them were construction workers, dock workers and domestic servants.  As the city gradually flourished and there were more and more people of different background came to Macau.  The Portuguese Macau Government claimed that gambling activities should not be excluded from tradition Chinese customs to show respect although gambling was bad habit.  Under such scenario, gambling activities were running all over the streets, and the underground casinos were found everywhere.  Gambling activities were almost not regulated.  Under such condition, the bookmakers from different underground casinos formed the first generation of gaming industry.

As early as 1847, the Portuguese Macau Government issued a decree declaring the legalization of gambling, since then, Macau as “Oriental Monte Carlo” in the name was widely known to the world.  In those years annual taxation from gaming industry was up to hundred thousand silver ounce.  The booming of gaming industry was closely in relationship with labour trade, known as piggy workers, which was wanton manipulated by Macanese authorities.  At that time, many Chinese people directly engaged in the labour trade such as traffickers, local ruffians, hooligans and so-called “gang family”.  These people themselves not only were gambling addiction, but concurrently also ran the gambling business.  They direct or indirect used of gambling as bait to decoy the poor Mainland Chinese to enter into Macau.  When the Mainland Chinese lost all of their money after gambling, the gang sent them abroad as ‘piggy labours’.  This situation was quite common in those days.  The gambling activities were rampant in the society, it caused an extreme ‘flooding’ phenomenon.

There are at least four advantages in Macau gambling and tourism development, including

1.  Historic and famous;

2.  Status of the business is not to be replaced;

3.  Macau benefit from the gambling prohibition in Hong Kong and Mainland China;

4.  Industry utilities well-managed.  Macau first gambling franchise was early formed in 1930.  The first gambling franchise license was issued to an entertainment company in 1937.  In fact, the company was too conservative to run her business, and failed to take full advantages of the economic potential of the gaming industry.  At that time the company only provided Chinese style games.  Subsequently, Sociedade de Turismo e Diversoes de Macau (STDM) was issued gambling franchise in 1961, and the first casino opened in 1962.  STDM holding a monopoly has operated for 40 years until 31st March, 2002.  The other new gaming companies were licensed to begin in operation.  On 8th February, 2002, Macau SAR announced the result of tender bid on gaming business.  Sociedade de Jogos de Macau, S.A., Wynn Resorts (Macau) S.A. and Galaxy Casino, S.A. were issued licenses for casino.  That meant the original pattern in Macau gaming industry was interrupted, it became these three companies to share one cake.  A new era was then begun.  Sands Macau, operated by the U.S. famous casino, The Venetian Las Vegas, opened on 18th May, 2004.  Following the grand opening of Crown and Venetian Resort on 28th August, 2007, MGM Grand and Casino Ponte 16 were in operation in February 2008.  In that moment, total number of six licenses (3 primary licenses and 3 secondary licenses) were fully debut. As of the year end of 2017, there were a total of 40 casinos in Macao, with 25 casinos located in the Macao Peninsula and 15 casinos in the Taipa Island. Among the total number of casinos, the SJM has 22 casinos; Galaxy has 6 casinos; the Venetian has 5 casinos; Melco Crown (formerly known as “Melco PBL”) has 4 casinos; Wynn has 2 casinos and; MGM has 1 casino. The number of gambling table in Macau surged to six thousand four hundred and nineteen, slot machines also reached to the number of fifteen thousand six hundred and twenty two.

Gambling in Macau is diversity in forms.  Lucky games are quite dominant in gambling.  Any activities related to gambling, betting or lottery behavior in which chance or probability dominates and risks involve are defined as a bet.  Mutual betting is joint participation to win money by what the result of a race, game or competition will be, including dog racing and horse racing.  Pelota and harness racing provided in the former Portuguese colony of Macau are also included.  In addition, various lottery tickets becames available in the past Macau, such as ‘pigeon’ticket, instant lottery and tombola; and Hong Kong race meeting sweepstake and Mark Six as well.

With ancient-and-modern set and long history, Macau is the well-known Oriental ‘Las Vegas’ in the world.  Citizens may see and hear that there are numerous tragedies of financial ruin caused by gambling.  This is about a lesson learnt.  There are actually not many people playing in casinos.  As tourism industry is led by gaming industry in Macau, tourists from foreign countries especially Mainland China citizens are attracted to travel Macau.  It benefits the past Portuguese Macau Government and current Macau SAR to receive an increase on tax revenue yearly.  Therefore, there is a trend that Las Vegas USA casino is transcended by Macau gaming industry.  Rapid expansion of the gaming industry causes Macau economy dominant - to be the situation of one-way tilt.  Competition for gaming industry is more and more intense.

On 22nd April, 2008, when gambling rules regulates, Macau government began paying more attention to derivative problems.  For the time being, new gambling license will not be issued.


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