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The Macau Special Administrative Region, commonly known as Macau or Macao , is one of the two special administrative regions of the People's Republic of China, the other being Hong Kong. Macau lies on the western side of the Pearl River Delta, bordering Guangdong province in the north and facing the South China Sea in the east and south. The territory has thriving industries such as textiles, electronics and toys, and a notable tourist industry that boasts a wide range of hotels, resorts, stadiums, restaurants and casinos.

Macau was both the oldest and the last European colony in China. Portuguese traders first settled in Macau in the 16th century and subsequently administered the region until the handover on December 20, 1999. The Sino-Portuguese Joint Declaration and the Basic Law of Macau stipulate that Macau operates with a high degree of autonomy until at least 2049, fifty years after the transfer. Under the policy of "one country, two systems", the Central People's Government is responsible for the territory's defence and foreign affairs, while Macau maintains its own legal system, police force, monetary system, customs policy, immigration policy, and delegates to international organisations and events.

Economy of Macau

Macau's economy is based largely on tourism, much of it geared toward gambling. Other chief economic activities in Macau are export-geared textile and garment manufacturing, banking and other financial services. The clothing industry has provided about three quarters of export earnings, and the gaming, tourism and hospitality industry is estimated to contribute more than 50% of Macau's GDP, and 70% of Macau government revenue.

Macau is a founding member of the WTO and has maintained sound economic and trade relations with more than 120 countries and regions, with European Union and Portuguese-speaking countries in particular; Macau is also a member of the IMF.] World Bank classifies Macau as a high income economy and the GDP per capita of the region in 2006 was US$28,436. After the Handover in 1999, there has been a rapid rise in the number of mainland visitors due to China's easing of travel restrictions. Together with the liberalization of Macau's gaming industry in 2001 that induces significant investment inflows, the average growth rate of the economy between 2001 and 2006 is approximately 13.1% annually.

In a World Tourism Organization report of international tourism statistics for 2006, Macau ranked 21st in terms of tourist arrivals and 24th in terms of tourism receipts. From 9.1 million visitors in 2000, arrivals to Macau has grown to 18.7 million visitors in 2005 and 22 million visitors in 2006, with over 50% of the arrivals coming from mainland China and another 30% from Hong Kong. Macau is expected to receive between 24 and 25 million visitors in 2007. Since the Handover, Triad underworld violence, a deterring factor for tourists, has virtually disappeared, to the benefit of the tourism sector.

Starting in 1962, the gambling industry had been operated under a government-issued monopoly license by Stanley Ho's Sociedade de Turismo e Diversões de Macau. The monopoly ended in 2002, and several casino owners from Las Vegas attempted to enter the market. With the opening of the Sands Macau, the largest casino in the world as measured by total number of table games, in 2004 and Wynn Macau in 2006, gambling revenues from Macau's casinos were for the first time greater than those of Las Vegas Strip (each about $6 billion), making Macau the highest-volume gambling centre in the world. In 2007, Venetian Macau, the second largest building in the world, opened its doors to the public, followed by MGM Grand Macau. Numerous other hotel casinos, including Galaxy Cotai Megaresort and Ponte 16, are also to be opened in near future.

In 2002, the Macau government ended the monopoly system and six casino operating concessions and subconcessions are granted to Sociedade de Turismo e Diversões de Macau, Wynn Resorts, Las Vegas Sands, Galaxy Entertainment Group, the partnership of MGM Mirage and Pansy Ho Chiu-king, and the partnership of Melco and PBL. Today, there are 16 casinos operated by the STDM, and they are still crucial in the casino industry in Macau, but in 2004, the opening of the Sands Macau ushered in the new era.

Macau is an offshore financial centre, a tax haven, and a free port with no foreign exchange control regimes. The offshore finance business is regulated and supervised by the Monetary Authority of Macau, while the regulation and supervision of the offshore non-finance business is mainly controlled by the Macau Trade and Investment Promotion Institute.In 2007, Moody's Investors Service upgraded Macau's foreign and local currency government issuer ratings to 'Aa3' from 'A1', citing its government's solid finances as a large net creditor. The rating agency also upgraded Macau's foreign currency bank deposit ceiling to 'Aa3' from 'A1'.

As prescribed by the Macau Basic Law, the government follows the principle of keeping expenditure within the limits of revenues in drawing up its budget, and strive to achieve a fiscal balance, avoid deficits and keep the budget commensurate with the growth rate of its gross domestic product. All the financial revenues of the Macau Special Administrative Region shall be managed and controlled by the Region itself and shall not be handed over to the Central People's Government. The Central People's Government shall not levy any taxes in the Macau Special Administrative Region. (Credit: Wikipedia).


Steve Wynn: Casino mogul moves on Macau
(Credit: CNN - Talk Asia)


Steve Wynn is a man who not only makes the preposterous possible, but also profitable.

The casino mogul and billionaire turned Las Vegas from a strip of gambling dens into a global attraction, helping to foster the Vegas ideal that it is a place consenting adults can see and do just about anything imaginable (plus, of course, gamble 24-hours a day).

If that happens to include watching erupting volcanoes and full-size pirate ship battles, then you can thank Steve Wynn personally; he opened The Mirage, complete with 50-feet-tall volcano, in 1989 and Treasure Island four years later. The Bellagio followed in 1998 with an indoor lake, dancing fountains, high-end boutiques and an art gallery.

A keen art collector himself, Wynn owns one of only 39 Vermeer paintings and hangs it in his office.

Glitz, opulence and priceless pieces of art, however, are a long way from where Wynn began.

He was 20 when he inherited the family bingo parlor business in Maryland. But it was an encounter with Frank Sinatra in Las Vegas that made him want to move to the desert.

Invited to a private performance by the late singer, Wynn recalls in his interview with Anjali Rao: "There they were, eight feet away and full of it. There was no comparable thing today about the glamour of that. And at that moment, I was hooked. I wanted to be a part of the Las Vegas scene."

He finally moved there with wife Elaine in 1967, starting out as an executive and part owner of the Frontier Hotel.

It was after some shrewd moves in the property market -- including selling on a lot bought from billionaire recluse Howard Hughes for $1 million profit -- that seven years later he became part of the scene at the age of 32 when be bought the Golden Nugget.

After becoming the youngest casino owner in the U.S. and pioneering the big and brash revival Las Vegas in the late 1980's, he has been quick to change tack with his latest generation of mega-casinos where it's less about things to see and more about an experience - natural light, of all things, is a prominent feature, in the Wynn Las Vegas that opened in 2005.

It's still on a grand scale, like the Wynn Macau his latest venture, which is set to be followed by two more casinos in the former-Portuguese colony. Wynn hopes his Asian flagship will tap into China and the regions expanding middle classes.

"The pent-up demand for the good life in China is extraordinary," he told Anjali Rao.


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