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Occasional Paper

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Center for Gaming Research Occasional Paper Series: Paper 46

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In 1999, after nearly half a millennia of administration, Portugal returned the citystate of Macau to the People’s Republic of China, and it was designated a Special Administrative Region under the PRC’s “one country, two systems” regime. Less than a decade after the handover Macau was transformed into the world’s most lucrative site of casino gaming, and today the city is visited by more than 35 million annual tourists, the majority of whom are from mainland China. Macau’s remarkable economic expansion may be in part attributed to the city’s ambiguous sovereignty, an endemic characteristic which dates to the city’s founding in 1557, and which has long been its most advantageous asset. In this paper I analyze a three-year wave of violent crime, known colloquially as the Casino Wars, which was attributed to Chinese organized crime groups and which plagued Macau’s casino gaming industry in the period just prior to the handover. I seek to understand the relevance of the Casino Wars for the city’s status today as a special Chinese territory, and the way in which that exceptional semi-sovereign status allows Macau to function as a site of governmental policy innovation and experimentation with specific relevance for China’s ongoing market reforms.


Macau; Sovereignty; triads; Chinese tourism; State-transnational network; Model experiment


Gaming and Casino Operations Management | Hospitality Administration and Management | Tourism and Travel

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