I hosted a group of students from the University of Macau in China last week and to my surprise learned a lot about casinos. You see Macau is now the Las Vegas of the Asia, in fact since 2007 the casinos of Macau have surpassed the Vegas Strip in terms of gambling revenue. Macau, which was a dingy little Portuguese backwater possession, became part of China in 1999 and started to pull out all the stops to build a gambling mecca.
In order to become Las Vegas East, Macau began to attract US gaming moguls such as Steve Wynn and our own Dorcester billionaire Sheldon Adelson. Today, Macau has a string of US destination casinos such as The Sands, MGM Grand, Wynn Macau and Adelson’s $ 1 billion, 3,000 room Venetian.
What’s interesting about the transformation of Macau into a gambling center is that Wynn lost out in Foxborough and Adelson decided to pass on bidding for one of the three casinos that may be built in Massachusetts. Both of these guys likely have had it with Massachusetts and its citizens who want to preserve their quaint New England towns and live by the creed of Not In My Back Yard ( NIMBY). For Wynn and Adelson their creed is summed up by the following question – Why waste gambling energy in unfriendly Massachusetts when there are fortunes to be made in Macau?
When I posed the question about gambling in Macau the students were giddy with praise for the casinos; these gargantuan structures have put their tiny city state on the map and brought jobs and huge buckets of revenue to the government. Although they did not want to get into questioning the wisdom of our citizen-based NIMBY attitudes toward casinos, the students look perplexed when I explained that the good people of the Commonwealth want no part of destination hotels, slot machines and poker dens; they would rather complain about revenue shortfalls, unemployment and acres upon acres of unused property.
There is no doubt that state sanctioned casino gambling in Massachusetts has hit a huge bump in the road as citizens who support the idea in theory reject the idea when it comes to their backyard. Yes, casinos and destination hotels willeventually come to the state, but they have already lost their luster and their promise. It is certain that Massachusetts will never become Macau.