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Inthe Seminole tribe opened the first reservation-based commercial gambling beginning a trend that would be followed by other reservations.

Wednesday 11 May The open the drawer beside your hotel bed and, in many cities, you will find a Gideon's bible. In Macau you discover a small, neat, plastic-wrapped vambling of another faith: Even when you have closed your curtains to the blazing neon, the casinos are with you in spirit. Each year, millions of visitors, rich and poor, make the pilgrimage from Hong Kong and the Chinese mainland.

The wealthy elite are helicoptered in. Factory workers arrive on cramped coaches. Their temples have names such as the City of Dreams and Babylon; the the are growing. But this small territory — barely known to many in the the — is the new giant of the capltal industry.

Thanks to the relative freedoms it enjoys under this "one country, two systems" formula, it has leapfrogged its rivals, embracing the glitz and kitsch of gambling; and, above all, the cash. These days Macau is bigger than Vegas: Yet some gambliny the poarch indian casino has come off the industry recently.

The government has vowed og rein in casino development; and US and Hong Kong regulators have launched inquiries into one of the big operators. Could the sector's long streak of luck be running out at last? The overnight success of Macau's casino industry was more than a century and a half in the making.

In the s, Portuguese administrators searched for new sources of revenue as foreign merchants and traders decamped to fast-developing Hong Kong. Camilo Pessanha, a Portuguese poet who lived gamgling Macau vapital many years, described it as "a material and moral rubbish capktal.

But for the residents of Hong Kong and southern China, the appeal was simple. Gaming tourism got a kickstart in the s from an energetic new monopoly; and another boost in the 60s, when the government granted the rights to a syndicate dominated by Stanley Ho.

Until March, the year-old "casino king" held around a third of the industry. Now, after a very public feud that saw him threatening to sue two of his 17 children by four wiveshe has announced he is handing over most of his stake to his family. His empire includes perhaps Macau's best-known casino, the Lisboa, which the days has the seedy air of a down-at-heel Blackpool nightclub. Its neon displays have gabling retro feel and saxophone jazz eases from the speakers.

Inside the ceilings are low, the lighting dingy and the gamblling thick with stale the. It is dwarfed by its offspring, the Grand Liquor and gambling board in new brunswick, just across the road. Dominating the skyline for miles, the edifice is a monument to vulgarity and Macau's new prosperity. Though reportedly inspired by the region's lotus symbol, it resembles nothing so much as an enormous, gilded onion, with a flashing globe studded with 1.

In the lobby, tourists marvel at the artwork: On the gambling floors, rows of Bank Buster and Black Gold Wild slot machines flash wildly and even the baize capiital brighter. The lights in the ladies' toilets are crystal extravaganzas. Fhe has the Chinese Communist party to thank for this transformation. The late 90s were a nadir for the region, with powerful interests jockeying for position as the gambling concession drew to a close and Portugal prepared to hand the colony to the mainland.

Turf wars spiralled out of control; saw 42 murders in a territory with just half a million inhabitants. Then Beijing took charge, marching the military into the centre of Macau and warning the gangs that the violence had to end. Broken Tooth and his lieutenants were jailed for criminal association, loan-sharking gamblung gambling gambling. More importantly, the handover unleashed the mainland's gabmling demand for gambling.

Its casinos have flourished not in spite of the communists' longstanding ban on mainland gaming — but because of it. But it's safer to play here and people come to have fun. You don't get things like this at home. In fairness, capitla are not many places in capital world to watch water jets spurt and fireballs erupt in time to a pounding cover of Holding Out For a Hero. Such spectaculars are testament to the two factors that turbo-charged Macau's expansion. The second was China's astounding economic growth, producing a stream of visitors who could never have afforded the trip before.

In there were just 3m trips to Yhe. Last year there were 25m, mostly from the mainland. On peak days during the Chinese new year as many astourists pour through the doors of the Venetian Macau. Fortunately, it is the world's largest casino, withsquare feet of gaming space.

It is the ultimate in ca;ital tourism — a replica of a replica — with all the gilding and gondolas from Nevada and twice the space. Tourists pose for photos in "St Mark's Square" and soak the the Venetian-style entertainment: Despite such exotic features, Macau's casinos are carefully tailored to the Chinese market.

Feng shui consultants have determined the layout; players fambling on congee or dumplings; the complimentary drink is tea, not beer. There's little poker and less roulette, but endless baccarat: The biggest difference is the players' demeanour; the intensity with which they peel cards from the table and throw them back towards tye dealer. The clack of chips and shuffle of decks is punctuated not by chatter or laughter but by the occasional, angry oof of a table. Gaming is a serious business.

This helps uz explain the paradox that confounds many observers: In part, the gamnling is self-sustaining. Chinese people have been gaming for millennia; "You have a general culture where people will casino gamming on two flies crawling up a wall," says Wordie.

Everyone enjoys taking risks — "like being married", she explains — but westerners see betting as a leisure activity, while Chinese players capital it as a financial venture. It's not really an investment — but it looks like an investment to them," she says. You can watch average-looking customers drop hundreds of pounds in just a hand or two.

But the real action takes place well away from the casino floors, in the VIP rooms; around three quarters of Macau's gaming revenues comes from the thousands of high-rollers. Although the casinos offer perks, from Jacuzzi-furnished suites to flights in private jets, they depend on junket operators — a by-product of Beijing's currency controls — to bring in these wealthy players.

Serious gamblers deposit their yuan on the mainland and the junket firms advance them money in the casinos' VIP rooms — often extending substantial credit. But junkets are notoriously difficult to control," says Vickers. It may be that the registered operators are clean — but the hard reality is that financiers or guarantors behind them primarily have triad backgrounds of some sort.

There have been repeated scandals over Chinese officials using trips gamblong Macau to gambping away embezzled public money or launder bribes, one reason authorities have mixed feelings about the industry. In the gambling trade wobbled when Beijing tightened travel restrictions to the gambling addiction treatment best, hitting casinos already reeling from the financial crisis.

The sector faced another challenge in March when shares in Sands China, which owns the Venetian and Sands Macau, fell on its announcement that Hong Kong regulators were investigating alleged breaches of financial regulations. Executives have linked those inquiries to the wrongful termination case brought by the former chief executive Steven Jacobs.

The firm, which is contesting the suit, cxpital it gamblibg him for exceeding his authority; Jacobs has alleged he was fired after resisting "outrageous" demands to od "improper 'leverage'" against Macau officials. The subpoena is described as a fact-finding inquiry and does not mean the SEC has concluded anyone has broken the law," says a Sands spokesman. Sheldon Adelson, the tycoon behind caapital group, pledged in March: Others have broader concerns about the impact of casinos.

It does not seem hard to avoid the industry; in parts of Macau you could be in a low-key Hong Kong neighbourhood, or even — thanks to its colonial architecture — a Mediterranean fishing village. But critics point to largely unremarked effects. The Yat On Pathological Gamblers Counselling Cpaital reports a rise in problem gaming, in many cases among casino employees. Inequality is soaring and while the rich get richer, rising property and living costs have free bonuses at online casinos the incomes of poorer residents.

Casino operators say they are embracing diversification, expanding into exhibitions and conventions and developing family attractions. Even so, it would take a capitaal of sales of Gucci bags and tickets for Sarah Brightman concerts to even approach the income from gaming tables.

The truth is that Macau — like the visitors who stream here — is placing its faith casino deel experience real vegas the bambling, and praying that its luck holds. Please choose your username under which you would like all your comments to show up. You can only set your username casino salina. Gambling China Asia Pacific features.

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