Why Is Macau So In Love With The Game Of Baccarat?


Popular movies tend to influence our perceptions of what certain things ought to be. And, so it is when we are asked to imagine a casino game we might picture something like James Bond playing roulette, or Dustin Hoffman’s “Rain Man” playing blackjack. These are undoubtedly two of the most established and popular casino games, but they are far from being the only widely-played casino games. And, to an extent, the constant referencing in movie casino scenes of roulette and blackjack may have warped our thinking as to their eminence.

Indeed, many of us have a westernised idea of casinos in general, perhaps stemming from Las Vegas’ role in pop culture. But this is a global industry we are talking about, and it’s been argued that Vegas is no longer even the epicentre of gambling. In terms of gross revenue, that title now seems to belong to Macau. The former Portuguese colony has trumped Vegas in recent years, almost reaching fives times (approx. $30 billion vs $6 billion) as much as Vegas in 2019.

Macau eschews some of Vegas’ most popular games

But here’s the interesting part: Games like roulette, blackjack, and slots – the big hitters at casinos in the western hemisphere – don’t make the top in Macau. Indeed, when learning more about Chinese casino games, it’s intriguing to discover names like Sic-Bo, Fan-Tan, and Pai-Gow that generate billions for the gaming industry. Those names might be recognisable to some, but it would be difficult enough to find tables for them at even the biggest casinos of Las Vegas.

However, the biggest draw in Macau is actually a game of western, specifically French, origin – Baccarat. The game is beloved of high-rollers, and that’s one of the reasons it is said to have generated 88% of Macau casinos $33 billion revenue in 2017. Again, you can find baccarat in Las Vegas, Atlantic City, and at most large casinos, and you can certainly find it online. In fact, it accounts for a healthy percentage of the revenues in Vegas and A.C, but it has nothing like the dominance it enjoys in Macau.

So, why do the patrons of Macau casinos love it so much? There are numerous theories about Asians’ preference for baccarat over other casino games, but it is not always easy to verify those claims. Moreover, we risk falling into the trap of making generalisations about the tastes of billions of people. But some of the theories put forward include that Asian casino players (in general) tend to prefer games of pure chance, and there is little strategy in baccarat beyond choosing the opening wager.

Baccarat is a rapid-fire game

A second theory centres around the speed of the game. Baccarat is faster than most casino card games, but not by a huge amount when you compare it to, say, blackjack. Indeed, most classic casino games are fairly quick, perhaps with the exception of poker variants, so we would be a bit sceptical about this one. We should also point out that the house-edge in baccarat (when played at best strategy) is superior to most roulette games but inferior to most blackjack games, so we can’t say that Asian players have recognised something attractive in the odds.


In truth, then, we cannot determine why Asian casino players enjoy baccarat beyond saying that the game seems to suit them culturally. But our insight into why is just as limited as asking why Canadians like maple syrup or Australians cricket. Macau isn’t exactly one of China’s secrets, and it does draw players from all over the world. But we can say with surety that the vast majority of players there are Chinese.

However, we will finish by pointing out that baccarat’s popularity has been gaining in Las Vegas (and other North American and European casino centres), while games like blackjack and roulette have seen a decline. Indeed, many experts see this trend continuing. So, in light of that, the answer to the question is quite simple: They like baccarat because it is a fun and popular casino game.


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