Las Vegas was once the undisputed king of the casino world and the idea it could lose the crown was unthinkable just a few years ago - but that was before the rise of Macau as a major gambling destination.
Macau, a special administrative region of China, relaxed monopoly control of its gaming industry in 2002 in a bid to generate economic growth via gambling tourism. The plan worked perfectly and it replaced Vegas as the world’s most-lucrative casino market in 2007.
The gap between the two cities has since grown and in 2011 Macau’s casinos collected US$33.5 billion from gamblers. The total gaming win for Clark County, Nevada (which includes Las Vegas) during the same period was US$4.5 billion.
Macau looks destined to continue stretching its lead, as its gaming revenues rose by 13.5 per cent in the first 10 months of 2012, while Clark County’s climbed by just 5.8 per cent.
While the trend can be partly explained by the differing fortunes of the Chinese and American economies in recent years, the main reason for it is the construction of a number of high-class casino resorts in Macau. The region now has 33 casinos, including some complexes that feature lavish hotels and spas.
The Venetian Macau is the most extravagant of them and boasts 3,000 suites, a 15,000-seat arena, theatres, restaurants, duty-free shopping, four pools and a gym. When guests remember it is primarily a casino, they can choose from 800 tables and more than 3,000 slots.
Gambling tourists can also play in luxury at the MGM, Sands, Wynn and City of Dreams casinos. The sort of games you would find at GalaCasino.com, such as roulette, blackjack, baccarat, poker and slots, are all available, together with traditional Chinese games and sports betting.
It is easy to understand why Macau has become so popular with punters, so quickly. It boasts state-of-the-art facilities, offers a different experience for veterans of Las Vegas and Atlantic City casino breaks, and is easily accessible for Asian holidaymakers.
Despite Vegas losing its place at the top of the tree, it remains a great destination for a gambling-focused getaway. The Strip has 38 casinos, including the lavish Bellagio and the world-famous Caesars Palace, where you can play baccarat, test yourself in high-stakes poker games or try your luck on slots with seven-figure jackpots.
The number of resorts means hotel rooms are relatively cheap and that there is a huge selection of restaurants to choose from, ranging from low-cost buffets to Michelin-starred eateries. Visitors also have lots of entertainment options, as many of the casinos have theatres used for Cirque du Soleil shows, performances by the likes of Elton John and to stage major boxing fights.
Vegas’s casinos boast some weird and wonderful attractions, such as the manmade volcano at the Mirage and a huge re-creation of the Great Sphinx of Giza at the Luxor, making sightseeing a great way to spend a few hours away from the tables. For a more natural alternative, tourists can take a pleasure flight over the Grand Canyon.