Really. In 2002 China lifted a 40 year monopoly on casinos in Macau, which is poised to exceed $6 billion this year, overtaking Las Vegas as the world's top gambling center. One hour away from Hong Kong by jetfoil ferry, a gambling and tourism explosion brought a record 22 million visitors to Macau last year compared to almost 40 million visitors to las Vegas.
Macau's average take per table is five times the average for Las Vegas thanks to higher stakes. In Vegas, you'll find $1 tables, but in Macau the betting starts at HK$100 (US$12.85). The real action, however, isn't in the HK$300 blackjack or dice games, but VIP baccarat in plush, private rooms. High rollers, known as whales, account for about 80% of Macau's gambling revenue.
Las Vegas high rollers Steve Wynn (Wynn Resorts) and Sheldon Adelson (Sands) are gambling billions on Macau too. Adelson opened a $240 million downtown Sands in May 2004, giving Macau its initial look at Las Vegas glitz. In 2007 he'll open the $2 billion Venetian Macao, complete with an eastern version of the strip built on landfill between two outlying islands.
What happens in Macau stays in Macau? Yup, the Chinese government takes a 35% tax on casino profits.