Macau Casinos Bring Overwhelming Crowds of Gamblers

The tiny enclave of Macau is finding itself hard-pressed to handle the immense demands of the crowds flooding the new casino mecca. Once the personal monopoly of Stanley Ho, the Macau gaming industry was opened to foreigners in an attempt to induce growth; and with the opening of the Sands Macau in 2004, growth came and hasn’t left.

While mainland China’s economy surges at a 10% annnual rate of increase, Macau dwarfs that with a 30% figure. Last year Macau drew over 27 million tourists to an area one-sixth the size of the District of Columbia.

A majority of the visitors, and the fastest growning demographic, are Chinese natives from the mainland. Gambling is illegal in most of China, even though gaming has been a part of Chinese culture for hundreds of years. Recently, the Beijing government decided to allow more freedom for its citizens to visit Macau and Hong Kong, and the result has been waves of gamblers for the town which has surpassed Las Vegas as the world’s gambling capitol.

The former Portugese colony is finding its infrastructure tested to the limits. Labor shortages have left local businesses high and dry, unable to compete with casinos in wages. Land values are in an inflationary spiral, and congestion fills the streets.

Still, Macau much prefers the problems of adjusting to the good life casinos bring to the poverty previously experienced. The successes enjoyed by the existing casinos has drawn investors eager to share in the economic boom, and plans for more than 12 new resorts and casinos are in the works.

Growing pains may cause a hiccup here and there in the evolution of Macau, but it seems likely the riches of more casinos will allow funds to improve infrastructure, and the area will continue its dominant position in the gaming industry.

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