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From Gambling Establishment Wars to Casino Commercialism

I relocated to the Chinese city-state of Macau to begin work at the University of Macau in 2001, 2 years after Portugal returned the territory to the People’s Republic of China following nearly half a millennia of rule. Macau was the last European nest in Asia. When I showed up in Macau I had little understanding of the city’s Iberian history, its 150-year old gambling establishment gambling industry, or Macau’s vital function in the advancement of worldwide capitalism. Macau struck me at the time as a lovely station which was apparently a generation behind the neighboring Tiger Economies of Hong Kong and Taipei, with a main cityscape controlled by 17th and 18th century Portuguese colonial-era architecture, and a laid-back environment that was frequently referred to as “sleepy”.

Several years after my arrival, and following the liberalization of the regional casino market, Las Vegas entrepreneur Sheldon Adelson opened the Sands Macau, the first foreign-owned casino in the city, and the Sands quickly ended up being the most profitable casino in the world. The Sands’ success triggered intense advancement of the city’s gaming industry which had two visible outcomes: the transformation of Macau’s small cityscape into a phantasmagoric environment of iconic glass buildings and massive integrated gambling establishment resorts, consisting of 2 of the biggest structures on earth; and the sudden arrival of millions of nascent tourists from the Chinese mainland, who traveled to Macau on a new Central Government made it possible for exit-visa plan.

I ended up being interested by the relationship among this new built environment and these brand-new Chinese travelers who traveled to Macau to gamble and go shopping in the brand-new casino resorts, and I have been taken part in a long-lasting research study project concentrated on comprehending Macau’s function in China’s economic reforms. I am presently completing a book on the topic.

Secret to that function is Macau’s ambiguous sovereignty, which emerged from its Sino-Luso history, and which has long been one of the city’s optimum properties. I have actually invested the past four weeks as a resident Eadington Fellow in the UNLV Libraries Special Collections, with the goal of establishing a better understanding of the complex relationships among sovereignty and betting.

Although my original objective was to access the Katherine A. Spilde Papers on Native American Gaming, a collection of materials amassed the Harvard University anthropologist who worked with the National Indian Video gaming Association and gathered a large trove of information, one look for products about Macau caused the serendipitous discovery of another current library acquisition: the Eugene Martin Christensen Documents.

Video gaming consultant Christensen gathered these products during his years dealing with casinos, horse tracks, and lotteries in a range of gaming jurisdictions. Interestingly, Christiansen collected some products about Macau’s video gaming industry when the city was still under Portuguese administration. These materials are focused on the final years of Portuguese rule, and some items cover Macau’s well-known “casino wars”, an outbreak of violence which happened in the late 1990s just prior to Macau’s retrocession to China. Checking out old newspaper clippings enabled me to experience occasions of the era as they were happening, and triggered a much better understanding of the relationship of this historical minute and the changes to the city’s sovereign status which would soon result from its reunification with China. Overall, the comprehensive and diverse materials found in the UNLV Special Collections have been of considerable usage for my book task.

About the Author

Tim Simpson is associate dean of the professors of social sciences, and associate teacher in the department of communication, University of Macau, where he has worked given that 2001. He is the co-author (with UK-based photographer Roger Palmer) of the volume Macao Macau (Black Pet Publishing, 2015), and editor of the book Tourist Utopias: Offshore Islands, Enclave Spaces and Mobile Imaginaries (Amsterdam University Press, 2017). He is currently working on an essay, under agreement with University of Minnesota Press, entitled Macau: Casino Capitalism and the Biopolitical Metropolitan area.