Forms of gambling have been around almost ever since the Stone Age, with early dice games dating back to 3000BC in Mesopotamia. Flash forward several millennia and we see the first casinos rise up during the 17th century in Venice.
Today, gambling and casinos have become major drawcards that often lure tourists from all around the world to various top gambling destinations like Vegas and Macau. Even countries that once condemned gambling are starting to change their tune!
It seems like new multi-million dollar casinos are popping up every year; casino tourism has become big business for many countries, and when you add in horse racing and sports betting, it has become an unstoppable industry that accounts for a large percentage of tourism numbers.
Of course, the recent pandemic has hit every major gambling destination and their many famous land-based casinos hard. Travel restrictions and ongoing forced closures of popular casinos have forced many of us to switch to online casinos.
The iGaming industry (betting online) was already taking off considerably, but the pandemic has only spurred on its appeal. Though regardless, these are still destinations you can travel to for the in person deal.
World’s Top and Newly Emerging Countries for Casino Tourism
The Rise of the iGaming Industry
The iGaming industry is predicted to double in the next 10 years, thanks in part to improved technology that has made gambling online easier, safer, and more entertaining.
The emergence of blockchain and cryptocurrency will only encourage the iGaming industry to flourish even more going forward.
For many people who live in places where gambling is outlawed such as in mainland China, predominately Muslim countries, and even states like Utah and Hawaii in the U.S., traveling to big casino destinations or heading online is the only way they can get their gambling fix.
Of course, online gaming will likely never fully replace heading to the race track and visiting the world’s most famous casinos, so let’s take a look at three of the world’s major players when it comes to casino tourism as well as up-and-comer nations that have rather recently entered the casino and gambling tourism sector.
Top Casino Tourism Nations
Casinos may be outlawed in mainland China, but this special administrative region of China has become one of the most popular gambling destinations in the world.
A former Portuguese colony, Macau offers up over three dozen casinos, many of those being some of the world’s largest.
Macau’s largest casino is The Venetian Macao, boasting thousands of slot machines and roughly 800 gaming tables across half a million square feet of casino space.
It also provides around 3000 suites, nightly shows, mock Venetian canals complete with gondola rides, a giant onsite shopping center, swimming pools, and conference center.
Known as the “Monte Carlo of the East”, Macau’s casinos cater to international tourists, especially those escaping China for the chance to gamble.
This is why you’ll notice the offering of popular Chinese table games such as sic bo and fan tan in addition to the more traditional table games like roulette and baccarat found in most casinos.
Monaco may be one of the smallest countries in the world but its name is synonymous with casinos, glitz, and glamour, relying solely on international tourists since citizens are not allowed to place bets inside its world famous casinos.
Monaco is home to exclusive casinos that attract celebrities and the upper-class from around the globe, who often arrive in their private jets or by yacht thanks to Monaco’s location on the French Riviera.
Monaco’s casinos are all about glamour and luxury, often requiring visitors to dress up in tuxes and dazzling dresses. Most visitors will head to the historic and very posh Monte Carlo, dating back to the mid 1800s and famous for its roulette tables.
There are more casual casinos on offer as well such as the Sun Casino, but for the most part it is all about class and this is what draws the wealthy to gamble in Monaco. It is said that around a third of Monaco’s residents, most of which seem to be foreign born and therefore allowed to gamble in the casinos, are millionaires.
In addition to places bets at the tables or dropping some coin into slots, Monaco offers up the European Poker Tour Grand Final as well as sports betting action covering the Monaco Grand Prix and world championship boxing matches.
No country knows how to gamble quite like the U.S. All but two states allow at least some form of gambling, whether it be through casinos, state-run lotteries, or more recently sports betting.
Of course the major gambling destination for both domestic and international travelers is Las Vegas. Casinos were legalized in Las Vegas in the early 1930s as a way to raise state revenue during the Great Depression.
The smaller early casinos of the Vegas Strip have since been replaced by mega casino resorts. This includes some of the world’s most notable casinos such as The Venetian, Wynn, Caesar’s Palace, and the Bellagio.
There are hundreds of casinos to choose from, plenty of AAA Five Diamond hotels, and endless entertainment options. Sin City attracts world class music acts as well as big ticket sporting events. Add in endless buffets and shopping and it seems to appeal to the masses, catering to both travelers on a budget as well as high rollers.
Of course, Vegas is only home to around 10% of the country’s casinos. You’ll also find popular casinos in Atlantic City, Biloxi, and on the many Native American reservations throughout the country.
America’s casinos also often add championship-style golf courses, world-class spas, marinas, and celebrity chef branded restaurants to their gambling offerings. About the only place where you won’t find gambling is Hawaii and Utah where it’s outlawed.
Emerging Casino Tourism Nations
No, I’m not talking about the American state of Georgia rather the country situated where Europe meets Asia.
Georgia’s rise as a top gambling destination makes it one of the few countries in the region where casinos are available. The country is after all largely surrounded by predominantly Muslim nations where gambling is banned.
Gambling has become one of the fastest growing sectors of the country, both in terms of land-based casinos and online gambling. Both are fully legal, albeit it highly regulated.
You’ll find a number of casinos in Georgia’s capital Tbilisi, but the true casino resort destination is considered to be Batumi which has the greatest number of casinos in the country. This has led Batumi to be called the “Vegas of the Black Sea”.
Georgia’s population of fewer than four million means it actively encourages and relies on international gambling tourists to visit its casinos. Much like casinos in the rest of the world, many of Georgia’s casinos feature spas, hotels, and restaurants in a bid to attract tourists.
Georgia has managed to become a new top gambling destination in just a few decades. While online gambling is now thought to account for roughly 70% of the country’s gambling revenue, the addition of more land-based casinos seems inevitable and they will likely spread further out from the major cities to lure tourists to experience other regions of the country.
Gambling in the Philippines may date back to the 16th century, but only recently has it warmed to the idea of casino tourism. In the past, it was thought that gambling would lead to nefarious activities such as drug dealing, money laundering, and prostitution.
While the Philippines over the years had built casinos strictly for foreign tourists, gambling was banned for residents. Now it looks as though President Rodrigo Duterte is warming to the idea of opening up to local residents and increasing the nation’s presence on the world casino tourism stage.
The change of heart has likely been due to the recent pandemic which has severely hurt the economies of many nations including the Philippines.
You’ll find roughly two dozen casinos in and around Manila including the popular Solaire Resort Casino, Okada, and City of Dreams.
It also looks as though several of the country’s casinos will be given a green light to offer online gambling including taking bets on the Philippine popular cockfighting pastime. The country will look to using facial recognition technology to prevent local minors and non-registered users from gambling online.
Look for an increase in Chinese tourists to the Philippines, especially Manila, once international travel returns to normal. We may see the Philippines start to compete with nearby Singapore and even Macau in the future.
Croatia adopted similar gambling regulations to the rest of Europe when it joined the EU in 2013. A high percentage of VAT along with a €500 000 annual licensing fee has kept the number of local land-based casinos from really taking off, but this hasn’t stopped nearly a million British nationals alone from traveling to Croatia to take advantage of gambling in more ideal weather.
Croatia currently offers up around 20 casinos in popular tourist cities such as Zagreb, Dubrovnik, and Split. So called “electronic casinos” are also scattered around the country and offer up additional slots and video poker. There is actually a network of slot machine halls known as the Admiral Automat Club.
Travelers shouldn’t expect casinos on the same level as the giant casinos resorts found in Vegas or Macau, but there are still some decent smaller establishments that offer many of the same services and attractions as other popular world casinos.
Another popular gambling option for tourists is heading to the Zagreb Hippodrome to bet on horse racing. Modeled after Longchamp Racecourse in Paris, the Zagreb Hippodrome has hosted its annual summer Lipanjski Turnir Race for over 60 years.
It seems like more and more countries are seeing the potential revenue that can be raised through casino and gambling tourism.
Meanwhile, look for already big-name gambling destinations to add more casinos such as in Australia, where a new multi-million dollar casino is due to open in Sydney towards the end of 2021 or early 2022.
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