It might be Macau’s citizens, not its gamblers, who are profiting most from the southern Chinese city’s enormous casino revenues. Huge casino profits are financing the city’s annual Wealth Partaking Scheme (WPS). Initiated in 2008 and renewed each successive year, the scheme provides a cash dividend to all Macau residents.
Tiny Macau overtook Las Vegas in 2006 to become the world’s most successful gambling destination. As the only city in China where casinos are legal, Macau now rakes in as much as seven times more in annual gaming profits than Sin City.
The city’s booming casino industry has resulted in Macau becoming one of the richest territories on earth – so much so that the Macau SAR government has more money than it even knows what to do with. But this has paid off quite handsomely for Macau citizens who now receive an annual dividend from the government.
According to the Macau SAR government, the whole point of the scheme is to “share the fruits of economic development with the general public”. These “fruits” involve each permanent resident of Macau receiving 9,000 patacas (about US$1,200) and non-permanent residents receiving 5,400 patacas (about US$670). This amount has remained unchanged since 2014.
This year alone, as of the end of September 2017, a total of 688,079 cheques were distributed to Macau residents resulting in a payout of millions of dollars. According to its 2016 census, Macau has a total population of 650,834.
Gambling revenue in Macau fell in 2016 by 3.3%, but this still resulted in profits of 223.2 billion patacas (US$28.0 billion). In the past five years, the Macau government has raked in US$70 billion in taxes from its casinos, making the city the most successful gambling destination in the world.
Currently, Macau has zero public debt and had fiscal reserves of US$55 billion at the end of 2016. The city saw over 30 million visitors in 2016, 28 million of which came from mainland China.
For such a small territory, Macau’s casino industry is mighty. Macau covers an area of just over 30 square kilometres (11.5 square miles). Las Vegas, by comparison, covers around 350 square kilometres (135.8 square miles).
Macau is home to just over 40 casinos, whilst Las Vegas has more than double that amount. According to The Economist, however, gamblers, on average, lay down US$1,354 in Macau casinos compared to just US$156 in Las Vegas. That’s why Macau posts annual profits of up to seven times more than Sin City; this is thought to be due to China’s rapidly developing middle class who have a big appetite for gambling.
For the time being, the money looks set to keep pouring in for Macau and its citizens. However, some believe the annual Wealth Partaking Scheme is not just a simple dividend scheme, but a way for the government to “stabilize the political atmosphere” in the face of protest rallies and other civil unrest.
Either way, Macau is rich beyond its wildest dreams, and it seems betting on its casino industry has paid off, not least for its citizens.