Tuesday, March 27, 2018

Return to Macau

I have made the long voyage to Macau again, my first visit there since late 2012. Made it all of the way back, too.

The first time I went was to cover the Asia Championship of Poker. This time I was there to help out covering the Asia Pacific Poker Tour Macau series (both for PokerStars). The previous trip was to Taipa and the Grand Waldo, while this time the poker happened at the City of Dreams on the Cotai Strip and I stayed nearby in the Sheraton Grand Macao.

I was just looking back over my entries here from 2012, in particular the last one detailing what was a stress-filled trip back home that included me missing an initial flight from Hong Kong. That was a foggy day, as evidenced by a picture in that post, and in truth the memory is a bit foggy, too.

All told, the traveling part of this trip went much more smoothly, and while I had a good time there before, the reporting side of things was a bit more fun, too, as I was part of a team this time rather than working on my own. A lot of the new building on Macau of late has happened on Cotai, too, which meant we had a chance to explore several of the new hotel-casinos nearby and be suitably dazzled by the views, both day and night.

For some time now I've been filing an "Inside Gaming" column over at PokerNews that requires me to look in on Macau quite frequently given its influential place in the casino industry landscape.

Thus have I been aware of the significant revenue slide for gaming in the Special Administration Region lasting more than two years (from mid-2014 to mid-2016), and the more recent recovery. The slide followed Xi Jinping coming into power as the President of the People's Republic of China in 2013 and then subsequently instituting restrictions that among other things limited VIPs' ability to move money back and forth to the SAR.

I've also been aware of the new building of late on Macau, including Studio City Macau (opened 2015), the Parisian (2016), Wynn Palace (2016), and MGM Cotai which just opened last month. Heck, Sands Cotai Central (where my hotel was) only went up in 2012 just before my last visit, although I didn’t make it over to Cotai then.

Below are shots of Studio City, the Parisian, and the MGM Cotai. Click all of the photos in this post to embiggen.

It was interesting, then, to see and visit these massive new hotel-casinos I'd been reading about (and occasionally writing about). In between work we had a chance to explore many of them, including sitting down for meals at a few. There were crowds in the casinos here and there, although strolling through the malls the shops didn't seem all that populated.

We even had the chance one afternoon to play a round at the Grado Mini Golf course at the Venetian Macao, a sprawling 18-hole course on the seventh floor affording a pretty cool view of Macau.

The poker was fun to follow and report on, with an exciting Main Event finale in which Team PokerStars Pro Aditya Agarwal just missed winning the sucker, being a card away from sealing it before ultimately losing to Lin Wu of China. The City of Dreams poker room is especially nice, taking up a big portion of the second floor with lots of good restaurants nearby.

Still reeling a bit from the travel -- something close to 30 hours door-to-door, I think, to get from my hotel room back to the farm. Despite the long haul Macau is definitely a fun destination, though, to which I'd like to return and explore even more.

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