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In the month that global financial markets went into meltdown, Macau casinos took 0 million. America has a population of 300 million and Las Vegas has over 700 casinos.China has a population of 1.3 billion and a paltry 31 casinos in Macau, the only part of China where gambling is legal.The casino, which opened in 2004, cost 0 million to build and the action in this room paid back that bill within its first year. Last year, it took more money from gambling than Sin City: billion compared to Vegas’s billion.
The instigator was a John Gotti-like figure – ‘Broken Tooth’ Wan Kuok-Koi.
Head of the powerful 14K Triad, Wan has limited use of his fingers following a meat cleaver attack and made $6 million a month from the casino skim.
The lighting is on a permanent dusk setting, fixing you in one long, never-ending evening and subtly removing you from reality.
American gondoliers wait around like a street gang from The Warriors and intermittently ferry self-conscious shoppers 50ft from one dock to the next.
On stage at the casino, a hyper-energetic Hong Kong teen band thrash through a Genesis cover.
Middle-aged men gawp at the pigtailed female lead singer.
A Portuguese colony until 1999, Macau is now, like Hong Kong, a Special Administrative Region of China, operating a capitalist economy.
Before the handover, it was gripped by a gang war that saw 20 murders in 1997 alone.
The usual suspects are here to cash in on the losses: the investors, construction companies, champion poker players, VIP fixers – and, of course, the money-laundering gang chiefs.
Most of the investors are here direct from Las Vegas.
And now that the Beijing Olympics are over, the Chinese authorities are focusing their attention on the problem.