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James Suckling

Smoking in the World's Sin City

Posted: Mar 14, 2007 8:59am ET
I was watching CNBC this morning while I was in Hong Kong and there was a report on how Macau, a tiny administrative region of China, generated more revenues in gambling last year than Las Vegas – $6.87 million compared to $6.7 million.

Incredible. I was smoking a Montecristo Petit Edmundo in Macau on Tuesday following a dinner at Wynn at the Il Teatro restaurant and I had no idea about the money involved! Wynn is one of a number of new casinos in the 10.9 square mile city. It’s an hour’s jetfoil from Hong Kong. The Venetian is expected to open in a month or two as well as Melbourne’s Crown. The former looks about the same as the Las Vegas operation but the 350 retail stores around the hotel and casino look a lot larger. A massive underwater hotel is being built across the street. Numerous other casinos are under construction or on the planning board.

I am not sure if the Chinese gamblers in Macau are going to be interested buying anything other than chips. They are ferocious gamblers. I toured the Sands with food and beverage manager, and it is the biggest casino in the world, with 230,000 square feet filled with close to 800 gaming tables and more than 12,000 slots. There are only 52 rooms and all are comped to high rollers. Very few gamblers come for sleeping in Macau. In fact, it is common for players to fall asleep on the tables.

I am not sure if I remember correctly but the average stay for a gambler in Macau is something like 23 hours, and I think 20 hours are spent gambling and the rest eating bowls of noodles and getting messages. Apparently, the 747 hanger sized facility of the Sands can be so packed that you can’t walk through the gaming floor. And many players will spend hours sitting in the same spot playing. Most only drink tea or milk as they play.

Macau is a hardcore gamblers venue. I played a few hands of blackjack and walked away a winner. But I couldn’t help but feel out of place. I guess I don’t take gambling that seriously. And I miss all the creature comforts of Vegas, including the excellent restaurants and shopping.

I had dinner with a handful of food and beverage guys at Wynn’s Italian restaurant and they were all very positive about the future in Macau. What they weren’t sure about was how long it would take the Chinese to learn to want to eat, drink and shop as well as gambling. Some casinos had already closed fine restaurants to add more gaming tables.

“You make a lot more money with gaming tables than restaurant tables here,” said one.

Besides higher gambling revenues, Macau has another thing over Vegas. You can smoke wherever you damned well please! As always, the Monte Petit Edmundo was fantastic. It’s a rich and decadent young smoke with lots of spicy, cedary and tobacco character. The more I smoke these the more I like them. There was something reassuring smoking that cigar in what is now the world’s most important Sin City. It was like finding a good friend in a big
crowd of people you don’t know…

Comments   3 comment(s)

Scott Bergstrom — Denver, CO —  March 15, 2007 1:32pm ET

I also noticed the passion Chinese nationals have for gambling. Whenever I'm in Russia or Eastern Europe you can count on them to raise the bar for sheer profligacy at the table. For the most part, the croupiers don't speak Chinese, but the word "blackjack" translates into every language. In the casinos of Moscow and Petersburg, the staff seemed to dislike the Chinese visitors quite a bit, often mocking them, even as they threw down enormous wads of rublei. A lot of this seemed to be because of the language gap - there was little chit chat because there seemed to be no shared language. Although I imagine some of this had to do with as yet unresolved geopolitical tensions.


jeff hutcheson March 16, 2007 10:04am ET

Mr. Suckling based on your high recommendation of the petit edmundo I went ahead and purchased a box. I must say you truly hit the nail on the head with this one, a delicious little treat thats certainly not for the faint hearted. Even being young these sticks are great, I can not wait for a couple years of age to really let them blossom to their full potential....keep up the good work.


Richard Fulton — Houston, Texas —  March 21, 2007 5:31pm ET

James: I too have spent some time in Macau, but not for the past 5 years. Things have changed. Last time there, the Lisboa was the shining star, and most Westerners shopped for Chinese antiques or ate the wonderful local food (expecially Fernando's on Hac Sa beach). My brother lived in Hong Kong for years and we always loved the hydrofoil ride over, and the fun we could have in a place that blended Old European and Chinese architecture and culture. The large Gambling spots are certainly a change, but I never have enjoyed gambling there. I agree that the creature comforts of Las Vegas are at least as important as gambling when you get right down to it. Macau gambling is too intense...and therefore much less enjoyable.Richard Fulton



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