After nearly 500 years as a Portuguese colony, Macau returned to Chinese rule in 1999. The territory has always technically been connected to China — it is, after all, primarily a peninsula — but in other ways, the two are worlds apart. As the Chinese government says, it’s “one country, two systems.” Nowhere is this more apparent than in Macau’s casinos, where gambling giants Las Vegas Sands and Wynn generate more than two-thirds of their worldwide revenues, up from zero a decade ago. A huge percentage of Macau’s gaming tourists come from mainland China, where gambling is illegal. Last year, in an effort to curb excessive gambling, China began limiting its citizens to one Macau visit every three months, which seems to have forced gamblers to double down. After a recession-induced slump in early 2009, casino revenue rose 12% in August from the year before to set a monthly record of $1.4 billion; in September, it leaped 53% from the same month in 2008. And in October, Wynn capitalized on the Chinese passion for games of chance with a new one: It launched an IPO on Hong Kong’s exchange. — EW
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