Asia Casino

Asia Casino

How life as casino hub drains Macau of what makes it special

Many in Macau have been mollified by gaming revenues and government handouts, blinding them while the city becomes progressively more unliveable

There is no such thing as a free lunch. An acquaintance of mine working as a marketing manager in a global company once told me that a special discount, bulk price or gift offered to customers was nothing more than a clever trick in which consumers unconsciously fell into the trap set by sophisticated businessmen.

Such commercial prowess can also be applied to public governance. Macau’s first chief executive, Edmund Ho Hau-wah, is possibly well aware of this manoeuvre as he successfully built Macau into the world’s casino capital, running the government like a business. Ho Iat-seng, the current chief executive, is following in the footsteps of his predecessors and there was virtually nothing new in his recent policy address.

Enthralled by the benefits, though, many Macau residents are satisfied with the government’s pandemic and tax relief measures, in particular those who will qualify for extra subsidies that are part of the city’s economic relief policy. Little do they know that the cash handouts and welfare they receive are trivial compared to the revenues Macau’s plutocrats and vested interests earn from the gaming industry.
It seems that many people in Macau have become accustomed to this political environment. They are oblivious of the fact the city they are living in has gradually been transformed into something unliveable.

An old judo coach from Japan in the 1970s told me that Macau was the most attractive city he had ever visited. An Italian cook said to me in his restaurant in the 1990s that he liked Macau very much because its inhabitants were simple and honest. The former Portuguese colony, nevertheless, is no longer considered to be a city of leisure and tourism in the eyes of most Japanese and Westerners.