Wry & Dry

Macao: "the most soul-less place on earth"

Macao is a world leader in a number of areas.  Arguably, it is the most soul-less place on earth [1].  It is also the most densely populated region in the world [2], as well as the second wealthiest [3].  

Readers will know that Macao is the former Portuguese colony but now a Special Administrative Region (Region?  It's only 30 km², about two-thirds of the size of Phillip Island) of the People's Republic of China, just near Hong Kong.  

Essentially, it is a gambling city-state.  Macao is the world's leading casino resort, comfortably ahead of Las Vegas [4].  But over 80% of its population cannot gamble (60% work in casinos or casino supply companies and are prohibited from gambling; 20% work for the government and government employees are forbidden to gamble).

Logic might suggest that 20% of the population of 650,000 do all the gambling, and feed the groaning coffers of the government (over 70% of the city-state's revenue comes from gambling). Err, no.

Y'see, in the large-ish country next door (China) betting, other than on state lotteries, is not allowed.  But W&D guesses that the Chinese people like a little flutter, as it were.  And so they either punt on the share market, property market.  Or fly/ ferry to Macao (or to Las Vegas, or other lush casinos).

Add to that the fact that Macao is an offshore financial centre, a tax haven, and a free port with no foreign exchange control regimes and you can see the making of a financial, well, melting pot.

The aim of the casino operators is to fleece the punters.  And the more punters, the more revenue.  And with the world's second most populated country next door and with some of the wealthiest people on earth (and probably most punting-oriented), the aim is to get plane-loads of punters from mainland China to visit.  Especially those who fly private planes. 

But the Chinese government wants to reduce the outflow of capital from China, be it legal or illegal.  And so it has taken two steps.

Firstly, cut down on corruption in China, which means the end to the lavish 'gift-giving'.  In February last year, the gambling revenue in Macao fell by 48.6% from a year earlier, the biggest monthly decline that has ever been recorded.

gambling 3

Secondly, enforce the law that says that casino operators cannot tout for business in China.  And it is this step that has led to the arrest in China of 18 employees of Crown Resorts, who were in China for the very purpose of luring so-called 'high-rollers' or 'whales' to Crown's casinos, in Macao or elsewhere.

But, well, gambling is gambling:

gambling 1

[1]  Personal opinion of W&D and Mrs W&D, who visited Macao in September.

[2]  21,352 persons per km², comfortably ahead of Monaco (19,000) and Singapore (7,700).  Australia has 3 people per km².  Source: Government websites.
[3]  GDP per capita at Purchasing Power Parity. Qatar has $143,788 and Macao $111,270.  Australia is in 19th place at $45,514 per capita.  Source:  World Bank.
[4]  Gambling revenue of Macao is over $30 billion p.a., almost three times that of Las Vegas.