Macau casino guide

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Day in, day out, more than 80,000 visitors pour into Macau, which is a lot of punters for a city that doesn’t even stretch to 30 square kilometres. And most of them are headed to the city’s 30 or so casinos, hell-bent on beating the odds and heading for home with pockets – or at least their bank account – bulging. Macau is still the only place in China where gambling is legal, and in recent years the Macau casino scene has exploded as major players from the United States have moved into town, bringing a barrel-load of American glitz and glamour.

The casinos are open 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. Many of the flashier ones are part of a hotel complex, ensuring that you won’t have far to stumble to catch 40 winks between sessions or just change your undies before heading back to the tables.

Las Vegas of Asia

Macau is sometimes described as The Wild East – never mind The Las Vegas of Asia – it should be not be noted there are one or two rules, which are enforced with varying degrees of nonchalance.

The legal gambling age for foreigners is 18 and it’s 21 for Macau residents.

Macau casino management – and they are quite strict about this – don’t allow cameras, laptops or luggage into the gaming halls, so they have to be left at the cloakroom.

Dress codes can vary, but in general flip-flops (thongs), shorts and sleeveless tops are frowned upon for both sexes.

There are stricter controls in high roller rooms. Note that while Macau’s currency is the pataca, casinos work in Hong Kong dollars.

macau casino
Photo: Wynn Macau

First-time overseas visitors will probably feel more comfortable in one of the American casinos such as Wynn, which is fronted by a broad lake whose fountain regularly bursts into an aquatic display accompanied by bursts of music.

Inside, owner Steve Wynn’s affection for over-the-top artworks and the traditional Chinese predilection for omens of good fortune make a good marriage: take a squizz at the 11-metre-high Tree of Prosperity that’s covered with gold leaf.

macau casino
Photo: Wynn Macau

When it gets down to gaming proper, there’s a choice of Caribbean stud, roulette and blackjack.

There’s both No Limit Texas Hold’em and Omaha Pot Limit poker and it’s a rare hour of the day when there isn’t somebody pummelling one of the scores of slot machines.

It’s not a bad idea to sign up for Wynn’s Red Card – which is not unlike a frequent flyer membership scheme – and which can be used with table games and slots, and offers a whole bunch of benefits.

As with all gaming halls in Macau, Wynn’s is officially non-smoking, though the smoking rooms (rather like you might find at an airport) are very well patronised.

Best casino hotel in Macau ?

macau casino guide
Photo: The Venetian Macao

venetian macau

At 50,000 square metres, The Venetian Macau is one of the biggest casinos in the world, with rather more than 800 table games and 3,000 gaming machines.

The décor is flashy and over-stated, though nobody is paying too much attention to the carpet weave and the chandelier’s crystals.

The real action takes place in the restricted access high-stakes rooms, where the minimum bet (varying from Macau casino to casino) can be HK$1,000.

Alcoholic drinks and refreshments are served in these “VIP” dens, unlike on the main floor of the casino where – contrary to practices in Nevada – patrons are expected to cater for themselves.

The most popular games in Macau are blackjack, baccarat, craps, and poker. Slot machines in the major casinos tend to be patronised by husbands or wives or partners of dedicated gamblers, passing the time until their other half calls it a day.

Anyone new to Macau who hits the jackpot on the slot machines might be surprised to learn it’s customary to tip the staff 10 percent of the winnings.

Even if you’re not partial to a flutter, the Venetian is one Macau casino worth a visit.

Other major casinos in Macau include the Lisboa, with its bizarre wedding cake design which dates from the 1970s when all the city’s gambling was controlled by one man, Stanley Ho.

macau best casinos
Photo: Grand Lisboa Hotel

New Macau casinos 

Heading the new kids on the block are the Galaxy and City of Dreams – the latter is home to Macau’s best Broadway-style show, The House of Dancing Water, a jazzed-up Swan Lake that’s well worth seeing.

Photo: Galaxy Macau
Photo: Galaxy Macau
macau best casinos
Photo: City of Dreams Macau
Photo: City of Dreams Macau
Photo: City of Dreams Macau

Offering a slightly different ambience, Mocha – there are seven outlets spread across the city – contain both slots and electronic games.

Bets for the slot machines can be as low as ten Hong Kong cents, though the jackpots are correspondingly rare.

The electronic games include baccarat, roulette and sic bo, a Chinese dice game.

macau best casinos
Photo: Mocha

Newbies should note that a Macau casino is usually heavily oriented towards the main customers – Mainland Chinese.

Crime levels are no worse than in any major city, but anyone who ends up with a substantial pile of winnings would be well-advised not to advertise the fact!

Discover Macau

For more information on what to see and do in Macau go this post.

Looking for somewhere off the beaten track to explore in Macao? Read this.

If you’re looking for Macao’s best new hotels, read this.

Looking for excitement in Macau? Bungee  jumping Macau offers quite a thirll.

If large resorts are not your thing, the best place to stay in Macau is a boutique hotel.

If you’re looking for a fun luxury hotel for the family check out this review of the Parisian.

Macau casino guide

Plan Your Trip

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Rent A Car – Find the best car rental rates at Discover Cars. They compare car hire companies to provide you with the best deal right now.

Find A Hotel – If you’re curious about this article and are looking for somewhere to stay, take a look at these amazing hotels.

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Ed Peters
I was born in London but have lived in Asia almost all my adult life, setting up home in Seoul, Seria, Pokhara and Phuket at one time or another but mainly in Hong Kong. I currently live in a converted farmhouse on Lantau Island, half-an-hour’s drive from the airport and a similar distance by ferry from the CBD. I write for a wide variety of new and traditional media, and have specialised in travel writing. My most recent book – The Asia Villa Guide – does what it says on the tin, highlighting some seriously cool pads in Sri Lanka, Thailand and Indonesia.