Gambling has always been a part of the recorded history of several Asian cultures with games like Mahjong and others like it being played in gambling houses all over China and other games of chance being played in other countries like Korea, Taiwan, and Japan. Each of these nations had their subtle gambling culture. However, the first actual casinos in the region were developed in Macau and quickly made the city the hub for gamblers and travelers from all over the world. This change led to the establishment of a true culture hub for gamblers who wanted to experience China.
Early Development of the Macao Gaming Industry
Macao was the hub of gambling on the continent of Asia for at least three centuries. Eventually the gaming would be formalized and the city would start going the by name of the “Las Vegas of the East” or the “Monte Carlo of the Orient”. In fact, the earliest efforts in gambling in the region were started in the 16th century when Macao opened its self-up to visitors from around the world. Travelers from abroad and construction workers were the main patrons of the small gambling houses at the time, but they were nothing like the casinos in existence today. There were no regulations, and small gambling stalls worked as bankers and gambling outpost at the same time and, of course, there was the presence of smaller gambling houses functioning in a quasi-legal capacity.
After the trading role of Macao gave way to the popularity of Hong Kong as a shipping outpost in 1842, the city needed to find another way to make money. The government there decided to legalize and regulate the gambling industry in 1847, by 1850 numerous Fantan gambling stalls began operating in Macao. The 19th century saw the gambling industry booming and the face of Macao being linked to gambling permanently.
The 1930’s Expansion and the First Minor Casinos
By the 1930’s, “Hou Heng Company”, opened a proto- casino by the name of, “Central Hotel” located in that was previously known as the “Victoria Cinema.” This company started modern gaming in Macao and opened the door to the other casinos soon to come. 1937 saw the Macao gaming industry shifting tectonically. At the same time the Portuguese government in Macao expanded the type of games that could be played in the gaming houses.
1960-1970 and the Casino Lisboa
Things changed and opened the way for the first true Macao casino In February 1961, with Jaime Silvério Marques establishing Macao as a “permanent gaming region,” decreasing the taxation in the region in regards to gaming and tourism. The first casino established was Casino Lisboa in the Lisboa Hotel. This shift in the law was a three story hotel that begun construction and was operational as gaming area for some time before it was purely legal. With the government’s support for gaming established and the establishment of the region as a gaming hub, the hotel expanded and the casino grow to 12 stories a by 1970 and marked itself as the first pure and legal casino. This casino was a fusion of cultures much like Macao itself with Chinese and Portuguese décor establishing the atmosphere for the establishment.