Las Vegas, Macau and the Future of Work

A few months ago I was honored to speak at the prestigious SALT investment conference in the US city of Las Vegas. It had been quite a while since I’d been to Las Vegas. The activity and energy of the place really surprised me, even though I don’t gamble.

Las Vegas was once the casino capital of the world, but Macau, a special administration region of China, has held that title for a number of years now (at least when it comes to gambling revenue). It was interesting to compare the two entertainment meccas and how they’ve evolved.

On the night of my arrival after checking into my (crowded) hotel, I took a walk on the section of Las Vegas Boulevard known as “the Strip.” I was in good company; throngs of people were also out and about.

I immediately called my colleague Jordan Pong, who is based in Hong Kong. Jordan is our entertainment analyst and covers the casinos in Macau, China, and other related companies in the region.

I conveyed my surprise that Las Vegas looked even busier than Macau when we visited companies there a few months earlier. Macau—a former Portuguese colony—boasts a gaming industry that dwarfs Las Vegas. So much so that’s it’s even been called “Las Vegas on Steroids.”

The 2007–2009 global financial crisis and recession hit Las Vegas hard, and its economy had suffered. But by the looks of things more recently, I assumed Las Vegas casinos today must be making a fortune at their gaming tables and slot machines.

Jordan told me that wasn’t actually the case. Macau still brings in more money than Las Vegas. He gave me some interesting numbers. Las Vegas has about 150 hotels with a total of about 132,000 rooms (150,000 if you include motels), while Macau has roughly 75 hotels with about 35,000 rooms.1 So Las Vegas has more hotels, and they are also larger than Macau.

Las Vegas also boasts more visitors, with 43 million in 2016 compared with 31 million for Macau.2