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The former Portuguese colony of Macao was handed over to China in 1999. Since then, billions of US dollars have been invested in the Special Administrative Region. Today, only tourism and the gambling industry play an economic role. Traditional economic sectors such as the textile industry together account for only seven percent of the economy of the Special Administrative Region. As early as 1987, the economic framework conditions until 2049 were agreed, which among other things stipulated that Macao would remain an independent customs territory and free port as well as an independent tax territory.

The monopoly on gambling was transferred to private concessionaires in 2006 with six concessions. As a result, major US hotel and casino operators have invested billions in Macao. Macao alone reaches more than 20 million people by connecting Macao with the Hong Kong and Shenzhen metropolitan regions by speedboat. Macao can be reached by speedboat in one hour from Hong Kong. The official currency of Macao, the Macao Pataca, is fully convertible with the Chinese currency. The largest investors in Macao’s gambling industry were MCM, Crown and Wynn.

Steve Wynn is an American billionaire and casino operator who, among other things, bought the Mirage Resort in Las Vegas in 1999 and resold the MCM hotel chain for over six billion US dollars. Wynn’s best-known project was Wynn Las Vegas, which opened in 2005. Based on the Las Vegas Strip, the Cotai Strip was initiated in Macao. The investment volume is estimated at around 20 billion US dollars. The strip was initiated, among others, by Las Vegas Sands Corp. In 2008, the company had a turnover of around 4.3 billion US dollars. The portfolio includes the Venetian Resort in Las Vegas, the Venetian Macao and the Sands Macao. The Venetian Macao as hotel and casino was opened with the extensive Venetian complex at the Cotai Strip in 2007. According to estimates, the facility cost around 2.4 billion US dollars.

The Venetian Macao is today the largest casino in the world with around 850 gaming tables and well over 3,000 slot machines. The Sands Group, headquartered in Paradise, Nevada, also maintains the Marina Bay Sands in Singapore, which opened in 2010. MCM Mirage (now MGM International Resorts), the world’s largest casino group, built the Grand Macau. At the end of 2009, MGM International Resorts had a turnover of almost six billion US dollars. The main shareholder is the US multi-billionaire Kirk Kerkorian. One of the most famous casinos in Macao is Casino Lisboa. Next to the venerable casino is the modern Wynn Macau. Today there are 30 mega casinos in Macao. The turnovers by the gambling in Macao have already clearly overtaken the turnovers of Las Vegas in 2006. With the investments in hotels, casinos and entertainment, more and more tourists have come to Macau in recent years. In 2008, the figure was over eight million. Macau still has development potential even in gambling. Hotels with integrated casinos on Macau generate their income almost exclusively through gambling. This is different in Las Vegas, where other entertainment such as shows, congresses and shopping malls account for almost half of the revenue.

It is estimated that the six casino licensees in Macau do not even generate 10 percent of their revenues through accompanying offers. Due to the numerous mega-projects of the casino companies, the construction industry in particular has experienced exorbitant growth rates. Due to the economic crisis in 2008 some projects were stopped for a short time. Today the situation looks more relaxed again. In mid-2008, the Chinese government tightened entry regulations for Macau, which had a negative effect on visitor numbers. Most visitors from mainland China stay only one day – come, play and drive back again. Despite the new travel regulations, casinos made good sales in 2009. In the future, Macau is expected to play a decisive role in economic exchange between China and the world. The Macao Trade and Investment Promotion Institute is one of Macao’s key business development agencies.