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Ethical Gambling In Macau?

Last edit: StudiodeKadent on Wednesday, 29th September 2010 2:33 am
Last response by OuijaAble 19th January 1:06am

I have a vexing moral problem to deal with, with regards to next time I visit Macau.

Specifically, I do not know which of the six Macau concessions to give my business to.

My moral principles are strongly against gambling with SJM; Stanley Ho is a former monopolist begging for re-regulation, crying over the death of his monopoly, sucking up to the State (which is par for the course in Asian societies, see Joe Studwell's "Asian Godfathers" for more) and feeling very unhappy that Schumpeter, Spooner and the like were correct that markets have a tendency to undermine privelige. Anyone that gives speeches on how "we must unite against foreign capital" has lost my business.

My disagreement with Stanley has resulted in me saying "I will not gamble with Ho, a Ho or any of his ho's."

I will not gamble with Galaxy Entertainment either. Its owned by a consortium of HK businessmen that have themeselves benefitted from significant state-based privelige. Plus, their blackjack rules are worse than anyone else's, and I'm a blackjack player.

Melco Crown can go to hell. Its a joint venture between a Ho and James Packer. Packer turned Crown Casino in Melbourne into quite literally the worst blackjack in the world (you can't get 3:2 blackjack for anything under $25 minimums, and unless you're playing black chips they hit on soft 17, and nowhere in the casino has RSA or surrender). Kerry Packer is a legend in Vegas; the dealers still speak fondly of him. James lost half his inheritance in bad business decisions and is raping Australian gamblers as a result.

Las Vegas Sands.... well, all of their resorts are the same (they have canals in the shopping center even in Singapore, even if Marina Bay Sands doesn't have a Venice theme!), and although they are FANTASTIC for high camp entertainment value, I've already stayed at the Venetian in Macau. Fantastic beds, very very comfy, but basically I'm only interested in returning on the occasional day-trip for the deliciously terrible/wonderful bad taste.

So this leaves me with two choices; Steve Wynn or MGM Grand Paradise.

Steve Wynn, well, I love his Macau joint. Equal best BJ rules, nice atmosphere, killer cocktails. And I would've unreservedly gone to the Wynn Macau until I learned something during my recent trip to Vegas... he used to give the best conditions for his Vegas staff, and now he gives the worst conditions... for a service-oriented enterprise, this seems counterproductive unless it can be justified by the recession. Also, as some have noted, the Wynn in Vegas is becoming "Palms-ified" and aiming towards a younger party-crowd... perhaps Steve is aiming towards a mid-market somewhat (possibly understandable given the recession). Plus, he does (like Sheldon Adelson) speak nicely of certain governments I happen to have disagreements with (and look, its technically understandable given the business climate of Macau, but that doesn't mean I have to like it). So, this kind of took the sheen off of his public image, at least for me.

This leaves one last concessionaire; MGM Grand Paradise. As we all know, its a joint venture between MGM Resorts International (who I like) and Pansy Ho (whom I admit I have an aversion to). In Pansy's defense, she is not her father. However, the NJ gaming regulators don't believe that's enough, and I don't like the idea of reinforcing the Ho dynasty. Stanley after all gave Pansy the subconcession, so she's more likely to be Daddy's Girl rather than Rebellious Princess.

In MGM Macau's defense they do have equal best BJ rules, equal with the Wynn. Their comp system also seems the most generous (built in discounts at all restaurants, and at levels above the entry level you get accomodation discounts) and the most transparent.

So, as I have stated above, I have some ethical reservations about each of the concessionaires, but MGM Grand Paradise and Wynn seem the "lesser of evils." Since I will want to patronize one of these enterprises for gaming and accomodation (and hence most food and beverage as well), the key is which is most deserving of my money.

I'm aware the gambling industry is not always ran by people I would always consider as being ethical businesspeople... but if people can refuse to buy cosmetics from companies that animal test, I don't think it is unreasonable to want to gamble at casinos that conduct business in a manner I consider good.

Any suggestions on this dillemma?
(CLARIFICATION: I have no problem staying in a hotel or eating from a restaurant at a hotel ran by a concession I don't like; I'm talking exclusively about gambling here)

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 nullzero00 responded on Wednesday, 29th September 2010

wow - how is any of this different than the formerly mob-run casinos in vegas? or how corporations that now run vegas squeeze you for every buck they can?

if you try to take the moral high ground, you will end up gambling zero dollars - there is always something that someone is doing in every joint that can be considered unethical.

go for the best rules for the game(s) you play the most, regardless of the casino. this way, at least you can get the best initial advantage for your play. and tip the dealers properly - just because you don't like the Hos (or wherever you do gamble), that doesn't mean that every dealer is related to them too.

as for Wynn going for the palms-ified vegas image - the Cali douchebags are where the easy money is right now. why deny that element in your casino in a shit economy? as for talking well about shitty governments, well, he's going to do that if he wants to keep his casinos in those countries or expand to other countries. that's called playing the politics card. if he condemns their government actions, then applies for a license, no way will he get approved. i don't exactly support it, but its the way of the world.

 StudiodeKadent replied on Wednesday, 29th September 2010

"Formerly" mob-run casinos are just that. FORMERLY mob-run. As for corporations, at the very least they are honest about squeezing the player dry. There is nothing in and of itself wrong with selling entertainment at a profit. My moral reservations regarding gambling at a partly-Ho-run casino are related to the fact that I don't like reinforcing institutions that have benefitted from state patronage (i.e. being an official monopoly).

You are correct; there is probably no concessionaire that does not have at least some people within it that are acting in a manner I'd consider immoral. So it is a "least bad" choice.

You do indeed raise a good point about tipping the dealers and separating those that work for a business from those that own it. That makes sense.

Regarding Wynn's Palms-ification, I should state that point was attempting to make sense of the fact he suddenly went from best working conditions to worst (although as I said I heard about this and it may not be entirely true, it also may be a temporary thing due to the recession). I don't condemn changing target demographics.

You are totally right about the necessity of playing the politics card, but as you granted, you don't exactly support it. The key is factoring it into the "least worst" calculation.

 nullzero00 replied on Wednesday, 29th September 2010

ever since i heard about the managers getting a portion of the tip pool at Wynn, i stopped playing there. it sucks for the dealers to have to lose business AND tips, but when you start paying people a crap wage based on the fact that they can supplement it with tips, then take away some of those tips too - sorry, can't do it. just like i can't play any 6:5 BJ tables. the dealers unfortunately are the ones who suffer most.

 Dramman replied on Wednesday, 29th September 2010

From what I understand Wynn is very frustrated at the Macau staff in general. They were once paying the most, but expected loyality. It did not work as dealers they trained to be "Wynn quality" quickly jumped to a casino with a better offer. I think the treatment reflects the frustration.

HAHAHAHAH....Tips? MACAU?.....HAHAHAHA....thats a good one!

 Dramman responded on Wednesday, 29th September 2010

You opened up a door to a fascinating discussion I have had with myself for some time.

While I can certainly understand many thoughts about the executive management, I personally have come down to the more hedonistic position on not caring about the above, as its more fun below. However, the management situation, and the comp problems, is likely one of the reasons nobody gets my loyalty while I am there. Skip around, there is no benefit to dedicating your play to one place or chain.

Some thoughts, concessionaire by concessionaire:


I can certainly understand the urge for creative destruction, and SJM's fate may be the same as every other monopoly. However if you pull on that free-market string your heart, it lends SJM some exoneration. If the have a better place for you to gamble, they have a better place to gamble. Despite their past, they have changed in a way you liked.

As a compromise, may I suggest the Ponte 16. A personal favorite, and partly ran with Accor hotels under the Sofitel brand.

Also in my opinion SJM's Grand Lisboa has the cutest dealers.


I agree they are just as opaque and "favored" as SJM. I also think, despite StarWorld, they are having a poor time trying to balance cheesy with stylish. That said, I love the funky Grand Waldo. I also love the post-appocolyptic vibe of the StarWorld's casino. I guess I have been seduced.


Frankly, I am mystified by your observation. Have things really changed so much in a year? If anything, given historically what I observed just the opposite is going on. The two iterations of Tryst seemed to have been axed because of d-bag gwielo men and girls who were there"professionally" than out for a good time. Its also the only casino I have been turned away from for wearing (nice) sandals.


I understand the cheese factor, and the gambling in the Venetian and Sands can feel like a warehouse. However, the Sands at night around the bar is a party (or was when I was there).

Might I recommend the Plaza Casino attached to the Four Seasons next to the Venetian? The limits are slightly higher, but a nice place to gamble.

Oh...give you point card to everyone associated with the company, and see what you get. I agree they are not to clear on comp policies, but you can be surprised what you get because of that. I drank the whole night away at the Sands once, got some appetizer thing, and 6am drunk breakfast at the noodle shop, all comped but gambled little the whole night.


Yes, I know the Ho factor is high, and I don't mean the girls at the bar. Meanwhile, yes, their mass-market casino floors need work. I also do not know much of what to offer, as I have not seen if COD has come into its own or not yet. I was there a year ago just after opening.

However, I thought the 2nd floor Hard Rock casino held real promise for a mass-market gambler. Cool-vibe not usually felt in Macau. Might be worth considering.


I will refrain from the Ho joke, as it might be misconstrued as it applies to Pansy. However, yes I know the connection.

I don't gamble here to much though because the environment is below average. Feels like a generic movie set for when the script says "at indian casino". Also, admittedly after loosing big here I think the place as bad luck/mojo/feng shui. Beautiful in some places though.

 StudiodeKadent replied on Wednesday, 29th September 2010


Thanks for the advice. SJM I have ruled out forever, and I don't think Stanley will ever change. I admit I think the Grand Lisboa is hideous... BAD bad taste (The Venetian is GOOD bad taste, i.e. camp, which everyone secretly loves whether or not they admit it). Galaxy is filed into the same pile... indeed, first time I was in Macau I stayed at the Pousada de Sao Tiago ("the Pussy") and even the staff said that I wouldn't like the Galaxy or SJM joints because they were (their words!) "too Chinese."

My observations over Wynn are about Wynn's Vegas joints... his Macau joint I am quite fond of.

I've gambled at the Plaza before... security watched me like a hawk (mother was drunk and touched the cards) but they did offer free drinks. I'll think about it if I'm down on Cotai. Again, my own distaste for Adelson and his carbon-copy megaresorts vs. my affection for how insanely abysmally deliciously tasteless/fun the Venetian is...

But the best blackjack rules (and forgive me for being a gwielo that plays blackjack according to basic strategy and low house edges) are Wynn and MGM Grand Paradise, so its a choice between those two, generally. Although I'm planning on eating at City Of Dreams next time I'm in Macau... have you seen the menu for "Horizons" restaurant? Its PORNOGRAPHY... I mean, they have a pasta dish with cream, truffles and foie gras all in it... and they have venison ravioli too... oh yes yes YES YES!

 Dramman replied on Wednesday, 29th September 2010

I can understand the "too Chinese" comment, but then thats part of the fun. Nohting is better than sharing that shared table vibe where you all root for each other for no other reason than the joy of the game. Its a thrill I can only get in Macau when as the only gwei to switch bets at the Baccrat table, and have all the Chinese there smile because its "good luck" to avoid the dealer touching the cards. Doubly as fun when you start to curse the cards and rip them to shreds like the rest of the crowd.

The Grand Lisboa is perhaps an acquired taste. Outside it's outrageous, but inside is like a cool 60s James Bond/Bruce Lee movie set. Also, like I said, the female dealers are all cutesy. Its actually one of my favorite places to gamble. The rest of the SJM's are below average, with the possible exception of the Ponte 16 (never gambled there, just slept, so can't give a full recommendation).

On the Galaxy side, give a look at the Grand Waldo if you have not yet. The casino is rather sleepy, but less Chinese because of that. They also once had a great poker room with a mixed crowd (first room in Macau I believe). The drinks though are cheap, good music, and Banana Joe's is a bit of a locals bar for the Gwei and Filipinos. And the Pappya bar on the ground floor is a bit of strip club, if thats your scene. I have read some blog posts both have closed though for remodeling. I hope not. :( Anyway, its the closest Macau has to a "locals" joint for non-chinese locals.

 StudiodeKadent responded on Wednesday, 29th September 2010


Thanks for that. Indeed, that whole "tips for dealers going to management" thing is one of the reasons I have lost some respect for Wynn. Macau doesn't have the custom of tipping, although the working conditions there are much better in the casino sector than in most other sectors of the economy.

Luckily, one can still patronize Wynn's restaurants etc. and avoid perpetuating the "dealer tips go to management" policy.

I agree also about 6:5 BJ. I mean, I can understand it (or a 1:1 unsuited, 2:1 suited BJ payoff) for a party pit (although I think a doubling restriction + 'tip the stripper' jar would be better) but as a large-scale main floor game, I do think it is terrible. There are plenty of other ways to get a reasonable house margin on a single deck game.

6:5 is mostly played by short term small bankroll players, so an informed and intelligent mid-market should be able to avoid having 6:5 games become the norm.

 jinx73 responded on Wednesday, 29th September 2010

Even though you left it to Wynn and MGM, from reading your concerns, I'd have to recommend the LVS joints. Granted you've stayed there and have some concerns with their ownership, but overall it sounds like a lot less of those concerns from a principal standpoint then the other places.

I guess my question is, is it completely about principals or is it a mix. If it's a mix, I'd probably say gamble at both MGM and Wynn based on your post.

 StudiodeKadent replied on Wednesday, 29th September 2010


Thanks for your reply.

Adelson has been no less conciliatory towards his new overlords than Steve, although to my knowledge he doesn't give management a share of the dealer's tips (indeed, I think Adelson's LV properties have individual tipping of specific dealers). So that is one point in Adelson's favor relative to Wynn. However, Wynn's joints are nicer places overall, certainly I prefer the Wynn Macau's bars and atmosphere to the Venetian any day of the week (although the Four Seasons casino isn't bad, but the Wynn has resplitting of aces and the Four Seasons casino doesn't).

This doesn't detract from the entertainment value of Adelson... The Venetian Macau is an utter monument to high camp and as such is terribly entertaining as a day trip, and the beds are comfy too. But I've already stayed there and generally I prefer to stay and gamble in the same places.

I could stay at the Four Seasons, true, but the room rates are astronomical relative even to the Wynn.

Principles are important, but good blackjack is, IMO, good on principle (so there's no real distinction). I am probably leaning towards Wynn so far... although I will think more about the MGM Grand... you COULD argue that Pansy is balanced out by the fact that MGM isn't the devil, and as a blackjack player they won't be winning much from me anyway.

Still, thanks for your assistance... it helps me sort out my own thoughts.

 mungroo responded on Thursday, 30th September 2010

I am not sure I can give much ethical advice. If you are looking at the least of several evils, you mays as well gamble at the joint you like the best. Wynn, in your case.

I found the Wynn the easiest place to get comped drinks although it did take a meeting with 3 of those hosts dressed as flight attendant.

Whatever you do, avoid the Grand Emperor casino (an SJM property) unless you want to experience what it would be like to play black jack in a funeral home.

 StudiodeKadent replied on Friday, 1st October 2010


Thanks for the advice. Comped drinks are important to me, so I will indeed go to either the Wynn or MGM on those grounds (I've had people say they get comped drinks there, if you ask, and talk to several levels of management).

Also, thanks for the advice about the Grand Emperor. I have no desire to play at any SJM property but to hear the atmosphere be described as a "funeral home" says it all...

 OuijaAble responded on Sunday, 19th January 2014

SJM also has a bad gaming policy as well.
Let's say that you are playing at a Blackjack table, and someone comes and bet behind you & bet more than you. The person that bets the most in that hand makes the final decision, NOT YOU (the original front better: on whether to stand, hit, double, split) That is such a bad policy that got me fuming and vowed not to play in SJM again.

The best places in Macau are Wynn and MGM, by far.