I lived in Las Vegas from 2011 to 2013. For me, it was a reboot, a chance to start fresh in a new landscape. Las Vegas was so much fun that I didn't pay much attention to the Macau buzz. The Chinese city that's a gambling paradise and three times the revenue as Las Vegas.
I had been to China before, but the idea of returning in the near future seemed unlikely. Of course, things change, and I recently found myself going to China for the fifth time. This time, I decided to poke around Macau and, I have to say, I was pleasantly surprised.
Macau (or Macao) is a Special Administrative Region (SAR). An SAR is a part of China but operates with relative autonomy. While I could fly or drive to Las Vegas from any other US city, I had to pass through customs when entering Macau from Beijing. This meant standing in line, filling out a departure card, and having my passport inspected.
The process is tedious indeed but not without benefits. Macau's special status affords it certain perks like free Internet without the Great Firewall of China.
Many companies that own casinos in Las Vegas have also built casinos in Macau. I instantly recognized the Venetian, Wynn, and MGM. With an exception- in Macau, the casinos are bigger and fancier. In fact, the Venetian in Macau is the largest casino in the world.
As a city, Macau is lush and green, a stark contrast to Las Vegas, which is a desert. Macau’s humidity feels like a sauna. And, at times, as if on cue, rain would fall to cool the city down.
Macau and Las Vegas both attract gamblers from around the world. The difference? Las Vegas also attracts non-gamblers and even families. Las Vegas is rife with a variety of entertainment, including events, cuisine, attractions, and nightlife.
Macau, on the other hand, definitely feels geared toward hardcore gamblers. The Cotai strip (Macau’s answer to the Las Vegas Strip) goes deathly quiet at around midnight. While I found it comforting to not see drunk drivers (like I see in Las Vegas), I’m sure the lack of nightlife deters some visitors.
Having been to both cities, I believe that Macau will eventually become more popular than Las Vegas. The quality of its casinos combined with the city's lush natural landscape itself makes it a more desirable destination.
China is still a developing country and many find it hard to believe that there are first-world amenities there. However, word gets around. Even the city’s drab nightlife is slowly beginning to open up. Before leaving, I saw an advertisement for an upcoming concert by the Backstreet Boys. Hardly exciting for me but still, it’s better than nothing!
Have you been to Macau and Las Vegas? What do you think?