The Gambling Industry In Macao Cultural Studies Essay

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Macao was named after the Chinese sea goddess A-Má in 1557. When it came under the administration of the Portuguese, being given the first official permit to operate as such by the Chinese. On one of the southernmost tips of China, Macao for the next three hundred years became the main and most important trading post between the West and East, in particular China. It represented a strategic gateway, being at the mouth of the Pearl River, an important access point to the go-downs and warehouses in the region of Canton. During this time, Macao would have been a thriving melting pot of Eastern and Western nationalities and cultures. This wide variety of languages and values, architectural styles, cultural traditions, customs, even cuisine would have existed side by side and gradually influenced one another. Perhaps fortuitously, Macao developed into a unique pluralistic society, interchanged with influences from the orient and occident. One such custom and pastime in which there was a overlap and amiable agreement of cultural acceptance was that of gambling which became a favourite pastime for many, for foreigner and Chinese alike, although it was initially illegal (Pinho, 1991) yet very much tolerated by the local Portuguese authorities as being a part of everyday life and Chinese culture.

Early reporting on gambling in Macao has been portrayed in a rather negative light, such as from the Franciscan friar, José de Jesus Maria, who was in Macao in the 1740's and wrote of how the town was made up of gambling, murder, drunkenness, fighting, robbery, and a long list of other vices (Pinho, 1991), a sentiment similarly shared by other writers on Macao's history in the 17th century:

'Chinese of the lower orders aggravated the situation by pandering to the sailors, running brothels, drinking and gambling houses for them, soaking them in cheap potent Chinese liquors and robbing them (a favourite trick) when they passed out'. (Coates, 1966, pp.39)

The gambling industry was obviously having a negative effect on public order within the city, although this continued to take a backseat to the main task of trade between East and West. Macao's gaming industry has metamorphosed through a matrix of illegal gambling houses, to legalisation, monopoly franchise, and recently liberalisation (Appendix A), which saw two major Las Vegas gaming consortia (The Venetian, under the local Galaxy Casino banner, and Wynn Resorts) win casino concessions in Macao (the other casino concession went to Sociedade de Jogos de Macau, SJM renamed from STDM, which simply 'inherited' the present eleven casinos). The liberalisation process was spurred by the similar motives of generating revenue for government coffers, and other fiscal benefits, as well as social stability and the wish to limit criminal activities from within the gaming industry (McCartney, 2003).

However, Macao's reliance on the gambling dollar is significant with gambling representing 60% of its Gross Domestic Product (GDP) with tax from casino revenues generating 7.4 billion patacas2 in 2002 (Gaming Control Board, Macao SAR, 2003) showing Macao's casinos (of which there are presently still eleven) to be one of the most lucrative casino industries internationally. However, while the economic argument is used to justify and introduce or expand casino development, as done in many gaming jurisdictions worldwide (Roehl, 1994; Smith and Hinch, 1996; Smeral, 1998), several social costs can emerge as a consequence of this development (Pizam, 1978) such as increases in crime and prostitution, addiction to gambling and drug abuse, traffic jams, littering as well as in the case of Macao, the possibility of a negative impact on its already 'fragile' culture and heritage. With a population of 441,600 inhabitants and landmass of 26.8km2 (DSEC, 2003), tourist arrivals to Macao in 2002 topped over 11.5 million (MGTO, 2002a) and continue to increase in 2003. This is significant considering Macao's small living area and has put added pressure on the preservation of its culture. Coupled with this is the introduction in the coming years of 'Las Vegas' themed casino properties from the Wynn and The Venetian gaming consortia with promises of creating Macao as Asia's Las Vegas, a mega-gaming hub with casino strips, themed properties and entertainment complexes with the vision of a casino strip totalling potentially 58 casinos (Events, 2002) and a total investment from all concession winners of US$1.6 billion (a third of Macao's GDP in 2002) (Ponto Final, 2003). As a result, a once laid back, relatively sequestered small town lifestyle with its unique blend of customs and heritage is progressively being exposed to 'global' cultures. This issue assumes further significance in light of the proposed listing pending with UNESCO to designate Macao a World Heritage City (Engelhart, 2002).

In an attempt to protect Macao's unique Sino-Portuguese architectural and cultural heritage, all the new mega-resorts comprising casinos, convention centres and hotels and other supporting infrastructure projects are to be built on Macao Peninsula's Outer Harbour and on reclaimed land between the two off-short islands of Taipa and Coloane (Ponto Final, 2003), named Cotai, an abbreviated and combined form of the two island names. This new self-contained city will allow Macao to expand a further 6.2 square kilometres, and accommodate an estimated 150,000 residents (Macau Image, 2002).

Amidst this substantial growth and infrastructure expansion, the preservation of Macao's cultural heritage is spearheaded by the Cultural Institute of Macao. Initially set up as a public institution in 1982 aimed at implementing policies on culture and academic research related to Sino-Portuguese cultural interchange, and stimulating interest in Portuguese language and culture in Macao and the region, its status and responsibilities towards cultural and heritage preservation have evolved and increased to its final standing in 1994:

'The Cultural Institute aims to maintain, preserve and renovate the local cultural, historical and architectural heritage, and to develop regulations to ensure that it remains available for the public to enjoy. The promotion of research to help the community understand Macao's culture and heritage better is another of its goals'. (Macao Yearbook, 2002, pp.325)

The Cultural Institute with a budget of over US$12 million in 2002, has enacted a broad strategy from publications, the establishment and maintenance of libraries and archives, cultural and artistic events, arts and film festivals to the running and maintenance of the Macau Conservatory (for music, dance and drama), The Museum of Macau (constructed in the interior of one of Macao's oldest and largest fortresses, Monte Fort) and various libraries.

However, the Cultural Institute is but one of a myriad of stakeholders with a vested interest in Macao's future. Ultimately though, it will be the reaction or interaction of Macao's local resident community, as well as Macao's youth population towards upcoming casino development that will determine and shape Macao's future legacy and the success of cultural and heritage preservation.

This paper while discussing whether the cohabitation of two seemingly incompatible concepts of gambling and heritage will spawn a culture paradox, will also highlight the findings from two previous research projects in relation to cultural preservation; 'Perceptions of Casino Impacts Among Macao Residents: A Study of the Liberalisation of the Casino Industry' (McCartney & Vong, 2003) and 'Assessment of Intercultural Awareness Among Macao's Student Community' (Nadkarni, 2003).

History of Macau

The first known settlers in Macau were fishermen from Fujian (福建) and farmers from Guangdong (广东). During those ancient times, Macau was known as Ou Mun, or "trading gate", due to its location at the mouth of the Pearl River downstream from the Canton province (广州). This port city was also part of the Silk Road with ships loading there with silk for Rome.

Even after China ceased to be a world trade centre, the Canton province now known as Guangzhou, continued to prosper from seaborne business with the countries of Southeast Asia, as the local entrepreneurs welcomed the arrival of Portuguese merchant-explorers.

The Portuguese reached Ou Mun, which the locals called A-Ma Gao in the early 1550s. They adopted the name, and with the permission of Guangdong's mandarins, A-Ma Gao gradually changes into the name Macau. Macau was established into a city by the Portuguese, which within a short time had become a major entrepot for trade between China, Japan, India and Europe.

The Roman Catholic Church sent some of its greatest missionaries to Macau to continue the work of the late St Francis Xavier, so as to continue his mission of spreading and upkeep of Catholicism. A Christian college was also being built beside what is now today's Ruins of St Paul's, where students such as Matteo Ricci prepared for their work as Christian scholars at the Imperial Court in Beijing. Other churches were also built, as well as fortresses, which gave the city an historical European appearance that distinguishes it to this day. Macau thus became the perfect crossroad for the meeting of East and West cultures.

Portugal's golden age in Asia faded as rivals like the Dutch and British took over their trade. However the Chinese chose to continue to do business through the Portuguese in Macau, so for over a century the British East India Company and others set up shop here in rented houses like the elegant Casa Garden. As Europe's trade with China grew, the European merchants spent part of the year in Guangzhou, buying tea and Chinese luxuries at the bi-annual fairs, using Macau as a recreational retreat.

Following the Opium War in 1841, Hong Kong was established by Britain and most of the foreign merchants left Macau, which became a quaint, quiet backwater. Nevertheless it has continued to enjoy a leisurely multicultural existence and make daily, practical use of its historical buildings, in the process becoming a favourite stopover for international travellers, writers and artists.

Macau has developed in the past industries such as textiles, electronics and toys, while today has built up world class tourism industry with a wide choice of hotels, resorts, MICE facilities, restaurants and casinos. Macau's economy is closely linked to that of Hong Kong and Guangdong Province, in particular the Pearl River Delta region, which qualifies as one of Asia's 'little tigers'. Macau provides financial and banking services, staff training, transport and communications support.

Today Macau is a Special Administrative Region of the People's Republic of China, and, like Hong Kong, benefits from the principle of "one country, two systems". The tiny SAR is growing in size - with more buildings on reclaimed land - and in the number and diversity of its attractions. The greatest of these continues to be Macau's unique society, with communities from the East and West complementing each other, and the many people who come to visit.

Among other things, Macau is famous for its cuisine and for the quality of the food served by the territory's restaurants and hotels. It is hard to find another city with such a concentration of restaurants offering so many different cuisines to suit so many tastes at all kinds of budget. In fact food has always played a major part in Macau society and is a good reflection of the community's long multicultural experience and present cosmopolitan way of life.

First of all Macau has a fine selection of coffee shops, in Portuguese, Italian and American style (especially around Travessa de S. Domingos and Rua Pedro José Lobo, in the city centre, and Rua de Nagasaki). They offer a wide variety of superior blends in a relaxed and friendly atmosphere. They all also sell delicious pastries -- not to be missed are Macau's version of the traditional Portuguese egg tart, or pastel de nata, and coconut cake. Also available are soft drinks, juices and cocktails.

You can find good Portuguese restaurants close to the A-Ma Temple along Rua do Almirante Sérgio, in the city centre on Rua Central and Travessa de S.Domingos, and in the NAPE area near the Kun Iam Statue. On the islands there are many excellent Portuguese restaurants: on Rua do Cunha and Rua Fernando Mendes (in Taipa) and on Hac-Sa beach and Coloane Village.

For a soup we suggest you to try Caldo Verde (green vegetable soup) and for starters ameijoas (clams) together with chouriço (Portuguese sausage) and olives. Cozido à Portuguesa is also very popular. Carne de Porco à Alentejana (from the Alentejo province of Portugal) and sardines (sardinhas assadas are especially tasty during summer time) all evoke images of Portugal. In addition all these restaurants serve Portugal's beloved bacalhau (codfish). There are literally hundreds of ways of cooking the codfish. Try Bacalhau à Gomes de Sá (prepared with egg and onions), Bacalhau com Natas (with cream) or Bacalhau Assado (grilled). Be sure to order wine because in Macau it's very affordable and of excellent quality. Dão, Borba and Ribatejo are popular red wines and João Pires for white.And to drink with seafood don't miss the tasty green wine (vinho verde) from Minho in the North of Portugal. For dessert try delicious serradura or any of the convent sweets; barrigas de freira, papos de anjo, toucinho do céu, doce de ovos, etc. (These traditional Portuguese desserts were initially created in convents with rich ingredients from all over the world).

As is to be expected, Chinese cuisine is of excellent quality in Macau. Restaurants are found in every part of the city and on the islands. Most serve Cantonese food but some specialize. So, for seafood we suggest you to go to Rua do Almirante Sérgio and Rua das Lorchas along the Inner Harbour where the morning's catch is served in restaurants that often have outdoor and indoor dining sections. If you're in Macau during the winter time try Ta Pin Nou, a Chinese version of fondu with a huge variety of different seafood, meats and vegetables that are boiled in a tureen on the clients' table. For general Cantonese food try the NAPE area, and city centre (Avenida da Praia Grande, Avenida Infante D. Henrique, etc.).

Chinese menus are long and varied, but include all the favourites: sharks' fin soup, sweet and sour pork, fried chicken, meat with vegetables, steamed fish, beancurd or tofu prepared in several ways, Peking duck and Beggar's Chicken. Try different kinds of noodles, which are called "fitas" in Macau, and rice. For more exotic dishes take a look and maybe try the restaurants in Rua da Felicidade (parallel to the main street Avenida de Almeida Ribeiro) where snakes, frogs, eels, seafood and fish -- many of them alive -- are on display in tanks in the windows.

In Africa and India the Portuguese learned how to use spices with the result that Macau's most popular dishes include African and Goan's chicken and piquant prawns, all baked or grilled with peppers and chilies.

Some ingredients such as Portuguese sausage and sardines are imported but most foodstuffs come from the fertile Pearl River Delta and Bountiful water of the South China Sea. Local produce includes quail, pigeon, duck, fresh vegetables, the famous Macau sole, African chicken and enormous juicy prawns.

The combination of Portuguese, Indian and even Malay and Chinese cuisines make up the unique Macanese cuisine which cannot be found elsewhere in the world.

In contrast are the restaurants serving Dim Sum, a favourite of all foreigners and one of Southern China's great gifts to dining. It is a meal which is served from dawn in many big and small Chinese restaurants and it lasts till about midday. This is an opportunity for friends and family to get together around the table to chat as well as eat, which is why it is often called simply "Yam Tcha" (which means literally "drink tea"). Here only small amounts of food are served, in small round bamboo baskets or in porcelain plates, which are circulated around the restaurant in trolleys. If you want to order all you have to do is to stop the trolley and choose. Part of the fun of this the meal lies in the variety of smells, tastes, sizes and ways of cooking. Here are the names of some Dim Sum favourites: Há Kau (steamed dumplings filled with shrimp), Shiu Mai (steamed dumplings stuffed with pork and shrimp), Tsun Guen (shrimp fried rolls, stuffed with pork, chicken, mushrooms, bamboo sprouts and beans), Char Siu Pau (steamed buns stuffed with pork), Ngau Iók (little beef balls seasoned with ginger), Tchau min (fried noodles) and Tchau fan ( fried rice).

Dim Sum is accompanied by tea, usually jasmin tea (Heong pin t'chá) or red tea (Pou lei).

Over the centuries Macau developed a unique cuisine that combined elements of Portuguese, Chinese, Indian, and even Malay cooking. Known as Macanese cuisine, it is served in restaurants along Rua Almirante Sérgio, on the Praia Grande, in the NAPE and on Taipa. Among the most popular dishes are African Chicken (grilled in piri piri peppers), Tacho (a hearty stew of Chinese vegetables and different meats), Galinha Portuguesa (Chicken cooked in the oven together with potatoes, onions, egg and saffron), Minchi (minced beef with fried potatoes, soy, onions and a fried egg), Linguado Macau (Macau sole fried and usually served with green salad) and Porco balichão (Balichão' pork). And for dessert try Jagra de ovos (sweet egg tart).

Food from other parts of the world is, of course, readily available in Macau and you'll find plenty of excellent restaurants serving Italian, French, American, Brazilian, Japanese, Korean and Mozambique cuisine as well as dishes from Southeast Asia, such as Thailand, Burma, Indonesia, Malaysia and Singapore.

heritage sites

At the 29th Session of the World Heritage Committee hosted by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), on 15th July 2005, The Historic Centre of Macau was successfully inscribed as a World Heritage Site, making it the 31st site in China to be granted this status.

The Historic Centre of Macau is an urban area within the old city of Macau spanning eight squares - Barra Square, Lilau Square, St. Augustine's Square, Senado Square, Cathedral Square, St. Dominic's Square, Company of Jesus Square and Comões Square - and 22 historic buildings - A-Ma Temple, the Moorish Barracks, Mandarin's House, St. Lawrence's Church, St. Joseph's Seminary and Church, Dom Pedro V Theatre, Sir Robert Ho Tung Library, St. Augustine's Church, the 'Leal Senado' Building, Sam Kai Vui Kun Temple, the Holy House of Mercy, the Cathedral, Lou Kau mansion, St. Dominic's Church, the Ruins of St. Paul's, Na Tcha Temple, a section of the Old City Walls, Mount Fortress, St. Anthony's Church, Casa Garden, the Protestant Cemetery, and Guia Fortress (including Guia Chapel and Lighthouse). This list includes the archaeological remains of the first western-style university in the Far East, the College of St. Paul, buildings that are still functioning according to their original purpose such as the first western-style theatre and the first modern lighthouse in China, and examples of late Qing merchants' homes.

The Historic Centre of Macau is the product of cultural exchange between East and West spanning over 400 years, and is currently the oldest, the most complete and consolidated array of European architectural legacy standing intact on Chinese territory today.

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