Macau – where smoking makes you unlucky

Wednesday, 23 June 2010

Venetian Grand CanalI stayed in the Venetian Macao Resort Hotel (to give its full name) in Macau last week. Just imagine Las Vegas (where there’s also a Venetian Hotel) and then think bigger. Much bigger. It’s one of the biggest buildings in the world, enough floor space to park 90 747s according to their website.

It also comes with a ‘Grand Canal’ and two other stretches of ‘canal,’ on the 3rd floor. Complete with gondolas and singing gondoliers who’ll row you along the canal between the 300+ ‘shoppes’ for a trifling MS108 (about US$14) per person, probably cheaper than the real thing would cost you in Italy.


The ‘shoppes’ include a Bank of China branch all set up to look after your wealth. And not your dull, grey, boring, everyday wealth. This is a bank that specialises in the best sort of wealth.

Prestigious wealth

Of course all this splendour is based on gambling, Macau’s casinos turn over more than Las Vegas with the help of all that mainland China gambling enthusiasm. A far higher percentage of the Macau take is based on gambling, I heard figures of up to 90%, which may be unlikely, but food, drink, entertainment all play a much smaller part in the Macau picture than they do in Las Vegas. ‘Gambling, it’s the new opium,’ commented a Hong Kong lawyer I bumped into in a Venetian bar, recalling the era of the British Opium Wars with 19th century China.

During my Macau stay I also discovered a totally new (to me) smoking danger. Smoking makes you unlucky, according to Frank Fahrenkopf, president of American Gaming Association. No, no, we already know it causes lung cancer, that’s certainly unlucky. But it also makes you 20% unluckier at the gambling tables. Or at least that’s what I think he meant, because he warned if smoking was banned the casinos would make 20% less money. Now the casinos, like the Las Vegas Sands owned Venetian, and the Macau government certainly don’t want to see their take drop by 20% so the government decided to allow smoking in the casinos for another three years.