Last Updated: November 6, 2014 – Macau is now the richest casino destination in the world. In 2013, their 35 casinos (with 8 more casinos on its way) generated USD $45 billion (HKD $348.9 billion) in gross gambling wins. This is more than every casino in the entire United States combined. It is because they are the only jurisdiction of Chinese sovereignty with legal casino gambling that we achieved such success. In 2012, they had 25,055,704 visitors from Chinese jurisdictions (Mainland China, Hong Kong and Taiwan) which accounted for 89.22% of our overall visits.
While this article is placed in our section: Gambling Laws by Country it would be difficult to understand Macau without also understanding our unique history and culture. For that reason, this article covers our laws in brief, a detailed historical account of Macau gambling during our 442 years as a Portuguese administration and concludes by touching on the conversion to Macau SAR of China which began 20 December 1999.
Macau Gambling Laws
The gambling laws of Macau are rather complex but only for those in the gambling business. In short, as a player – all you really need to know is locals must be age 21 to gamble in casinos, age 18 for other forms of gambling, and cheating is a serious crime. Other than that, not much is illegal here as a player.
We have casino, horse race betting, greyhounds, sports betting, lottery and poker rooms and even prostitution is allowed. Another interesting fact is in 2011 the government acknowledged Macau has no online gambling laws. It is in no way illegal to use websites such as www.bet365.com from your Macau residence or hotel room to play online poker, casino games, bet sports or races.
As China Gambling Law, Hong Kong Gambling Law, and Taiwan Gambling Law prohibit most forms of online gambling this is good information to know. If you live in one of these places, you can open a Bet365 account at home and during your trips to Macau you can do online gambling 100% legally.
Getting back on the topic, Wikipedia Entry: Macau Gambling Law explains that our gaming law is not a branch of law but rather a large collection of legal topics related to gambling that include constitutional law, administrative law, tax law, company law, contract law and criminal law. Most of what we have is gaming regulations such as: what games casinos can offer, their guidelines, tax rates, licensing, and complaint resolution. Our criminal law covers cheating, money laundering, and running non-licensed gambling houses. Our civil laws deals with contracts and it does state gambling debt is enforceable.
This is a huge topic that Macau University offers a Bachelor’s degree course on. If you have a sincere interest their course overview contains a list of laws you can research. Many laws are also referenced in this 13 Page Macau Casino Law Report. The actual laws themselves can be found by market segment on this page of DIJC’s website. DICJ is Direcção de Inspecção e Coordenação de Jogos which is Portuguese for Gaming Inspection and Coordination Bureau. They are our industry’s regulator and the laws are only available in Chinese and Portuguese. After reading the rest of this article you might better understand why.
Macau Culture and History
An important thing to understand is nowhere else did two vastly different cultures co-mingle longer than in Macau.
In the photos shown, the one on the bottom right is Sanedo Square. This is a 2km walk from major casinos Grand Lisboa (shown in the background of the photo top left) and Wynn Macau. Along the way you’ll find both low-end and high-end shopping and food ranging from noodle vendors to Asian street food and western fast food to both Portuguese and Chinese fine dining.
Sanedo Square is one of many UNESCO World Heritage Sites of Macau. If you didn’t know otherwise (and other than the fact most everyone is Chinese) standing here – you could easily convince yourself that you were in Europe. If you walk upwards you will find the amazing ruins of St. Paul also shown in the photos and a historic museum. Between all this are Asian shops selling beef jerky, street food vendors and all sorts of things that are clearly Chinese.
This all explained by the fact Macau was the oldest and last European colony in Asia. Settlers came here as early as 1513, and beginning in 1557 this was a trade-port city leased by the Chinese empire to Portugal. In 1887 we became a Portuguese colony. During this era we operated similar to being our own country and in 1906 began printing the Macanese Pataca (MOP) which is still the currency used today.
On 20 December 1999 Macau sovereignty was transferred to China. Today we are a special administrative region (SAR) of China with our own passports, currency, government, laws and courts. While considered “technically” the same country, residents of Mainland China need a visa to visit Macau – something not required for visitors from Hong Kong or Taiwan.
The facts we border Mainland China’s most populated province Guangdong (广东省), are accessible by the South China Sea, and are a short boat ferry ride from Hong Kong, and have legal gambling, prostitution, and many attractions – then and still today – has Macau as the hottest spot to visit in the region.