Macau, Part Three

The one thing I haven’t mentioned about Macau is also the main reason most people visit it. Due to gambling being severely restricted in both China and Hong Kong the only place anyone can build a casino is on this tiny island. There’s not a lot of room left for new buildings, so banks of land are being reclaimed from the sea to build Las Vegas style casino resorts. I’m not really a gambling man, but I thought I should check them out anyway.

The first I went to was “Casino Lisboa”

Apparently it’s the most famous Casino in the city, where the serious gamblers hang out. There were three floors inside, but each one was the same – a big circular room full of baccarat tables, cigarette smoke and rich Cantonese women. I haven’t a clue how to play baccarat. It seemed a bit like blackjack, only much more complicated. Standing around had limited appeal once I found out there wasn’t a bar, so I went across the street to the “Grand Lisboa”.

This is a much flashier building. The lights that you can see make up an immense globe-shaped electronic billboard, which is, to be fair, pretty impressive. Above you can see the hotel part, which is still under construction. The top floors actually extend over the road, which is disconcerting to say the least. This poster shows what it will look like when it is finished – a giant silver onion.

Inside it is a good deal more modern and a lot larger than the Grand Lisboa, but with the same baccarat tables. At least here there was a bar, which was not as expensive as I’d expected, and entertainment of the shit-magic-show-and-dancing-girls variety. There were slot machines too, but I can’t fathom the appeal of these at all.
The third casino I went to looked a like this:

It lacked even the minor appeal of the other two. I didn’t even bother taking pictures of the other three places I tried. They were all dull in the same way. The only entertainment I had all evening was in fending off some Filipino prostitutes.
Fundamentally I just don’t really get the appeal of casinos. Surely people don’t actually think they are going to win money when the odds are so stacked against them, so what exactly do they go there for? The terrible entertainment? The overpriced drinks? I’m at a loss. I try hard to save money so I can travel and watching rich people throw it away for fun just leaves me with a bad taste in my mouth. Or as Rudyard Kipling put it

“If you can make one heap of all your winnings
And risk it all on one turn of pitch-and-toss,
And lose, and start again at your beginnings
And never breath a word about your loss;
You are a twat with too much money.”

In short, for all its shortcomings, I like the old Macau, and don’t like the Las Vegas of China. Maybe Old Macau should fire up the cannons on the battlements:

The bay area shows how Macau can manage to be both modern and pleasant. Even if the rest of the place turns into casino resorts I’ll be happy if I can sit with a plate african chicken and a glass of sangria and look at this.

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