Macau is a semiautonomous region of China situated close to Hong Kong. For Asian travelers, the place needs little introduction. It is sometimes known as the Las Vegas of the East! That’s why the two cities often draw comparisons. Many are surprised to find out that Macau has overtaken Vegas in some respects, but is it a more popular travel destination?
Macau has a population of around 600,000 and occupies a smaller area than Vegas. If you include the metro districts, Vegas has a population of over two million. But what about the number of visitors?
While the visitor volume for Las Vegas is 42.9 million per year, in Macau, the number of visitors per year is over 30 million. So, there you have it: as far as the simple numbers go, Vegas still comes out on top. It is a go-to destination not only for casino gamers but also, for pretty much anyone in the Western Hemisphere (especially the USA) to have a party.
The demographic breakdown of visitors’ home countries tells the story well. Around 49 percent of visitors to Las Vegas are from the United States, and 19 percent are foreign. When we look at Macau, around two-thirds of visitors are from China, a further one-fourth are from Hong Kong and Taiwan. It’s clear that Macau has become a real hot spot for those coming over from China, and it’s even possible to take a day trip from Hong Kong and other nearby areas.
A Closer Look at Macau
Recent statistics published in Trading Economics paint a bright picture for Macau’s future as a tourist destination. In November 2018, visitor arrivals increased year-on-year to 3.266 million. Same-day visitors were up 26.9 percent while overnight stays went up by 5.1 percent. Visitors from China accounted for nearly 70 percent while visits from the USA and U.K. rose only by 13.8 and 13 percent, respectively, showing that the international community has shown interest in everything that Macau has to offer.
During the first 11 months of 2018, the number of visitors rose 9.1 percent year-on-year to 32.234 million.
Although this is all getting quite statistical, the point is Macau continues to grow in the number of visitors it attracts. Chinese visitors are still the majority, but even tourists from the USA (who have Vegas on their doorstep) find their way to Macau. It could be the case that in a few years Macau has over 40 million guests.
The Casino Culture
Given that Vegas is still more popular than Macau in visitors, where do people get the idea that Macau is number one? Well, this notion comes from the fact that Macau has overtaken Vegas as the world’s top casino destination. And it happened back in 2006.
The New Yorker reported that casino gaming turnover in Macau is around 5x higher than in Vegas, but this may be an oversight. Still, Macau sees around $600 billion bets every year, which is a significant amount of money. Other figures show that gaming revenue for Vegas is $6.4 billion while in Macau, it is $28 billion, making the realistic estimate around 3x more.
Most of the gaming revenue in Vegas comes from slots while in Macau, it comes from table games, namely baccarat, which takes around 90 percent of all the bets made. Vegas still has more casinos, though, with 104 to Macau’s 49, although the same top brand names appear in both cities.
Of course, it’s not only the games that are different. The whole atmosphere approach to casino gaming is completely different, too. For example, Vegas has a much lower starting stake for most games. You can usually find a bet for a few dollars. In Macau, the starting bet is often $36, and it goes up from there. It’s a high-rollers paradise rather than party capital.
Which one should you visit?
The destination you visit might well depend on where you live, but also on your preference. Vegas is still a party destination as well as being a casino hot spot. Macau takes its gaming quite seriously, and its bets are high. There’s also a lot going on in both places besides gaming. There’s enjoyable food and plenty of attractions.
Macau was a Portuguese colony, and so it has European architecture and culture fused with Chinese influence. You can visit the Senado square, the Ruins of St. Paul and more. Vegas, of course, has its famous Strip, but you can also take yourself out to surrounding areas, including the impressive Grand Canyon. The one you go to is entirely up to you!