Macao as a Gambling City: Observations through Visual Anthropology


  • Jukka Jouhki University of Jyväskylä, Finland
  • Ronan Browne


Macao (or Macau) surpassed Las Vegas as the world’s top gambling destination in 2006, and is now the biggest gambling center in the world measured in terms of turnover. In Macao gambling has been legal since the 19th century but it was not until the turn of the millennium that the gambling industry started to boom after the closing of the state monopoly. Nowadays, gambling related tourism is the number one source of Macao's financial growth adding up to a half of the region's revenue.
Within gambling studies Macao has received a fair amount of attention but there are few studies that have applied visual anthropology and/or film ethnography to examine Macao as a gambling city. The purpose of this paper is to introduce our project entitled ""Macao: A Film Ethnography on Gambling and Cityscape"" in which we examine the visual side of gambling in Macao’s urban space. Based on academic literature and our own observations (including filmed footage and photographs) from our preliminary fieldwork trip to Macao we aim to discuss how the Macanese public space is embedded with objects of gambling culture whether it be the actual gambling venues or related artifacts, advertising, monuments, gambling tourists etc. The project is ongoing and will result in a full-length ethnographic film documentary after the main fieldwork trip to Macao in 2014.