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University of Macau: The Source of Macau’s Gaming Talent

University of Macau LogoNatalie Chan collects bets, distributes playing cards and calculates winnings, but she is not a casino dealer. The 20-year-old is not even old enough to enter the dazzling casinos minutes away from the university she studies at.

However, she is learning everything about the gambling industry through an academic programme, which aims at training Macanese people to operate hotels and casinos in the city recognised as “Asia’s Las Vegas”.

“It’s not as easy as I thought,” said Natalie, who has already learnt blackjack and baccarat. “There will be an assessment at the end of the course. We’ll have to carry out multiple calculations while distributing cards, which is very difficult.”

Natalie is a third-year student of the Hospitality and Gaming Management programme offered by the University of Macau. The programme is tailored to train and discover talent for Macau’s fast-growing gaming industry.

“Other than learning different casino games, I got to understand the mentality of dealers, the stressful work environment they’re exposed to and what makes them tired,” explained Natalie. “Now I have a better understanding of what I should pay attention to when managing dealers in the future.”

Rise of Macau as a Global Gambling Hub

Macau Skyline

In 2002, Macau ended the four-decade gambling monopoly of Hong Kong billionaire Stanley Ho and opened its door to foreign investments. Since then, leading American operators such as Sands and Wynn Resorts have entered the gaming market of the former Portuguese colony. Today, Macau has more than 35 casinos, which have employed over 81,000 workers. The gaming revenue of Macau has exceeded that of Las Vegas, thanks to the fact that gambling is illegal in mainland China – more than 20 million Chinese tourists visit Macau every year.

Nevertheless, the sudden boom and the lack of talent development programmes means many senior positions within the industry are held by people from the West or other Asian cities such as Hong Kong.

The One and Only Gaming Course

Dr. Amy So, coordinator of the programme of Hospitality and Gaming Management, said that when the programme first launched in 2003, it was the only option for applicants seeking education related to the gambling industry.

“Macau has been looking to further develop its hotel and gaming industry even before we started this programme. But very few local people were working in the industry at that time, and there were no related academic programmes available,” she said.

The programme has been very competitive since its launch: 360 applicants competed for 72 places last year. However, Dr. So said they might be accepting more students in the future.

Since the last couple of years, Macau’s gambling industry has been evolving. Instead of opening casinos that are solely for gaming purposes, operators have started to invest in large-scale, family-oriented entertainment facilities. “I think the trend is to develop casino resort complexes that combine hotels, gaming, retail and exhibitions,” said Dr. So.

The programme offered by the University of Macau also covers marketing, technology, event and catering management. Students are allowed to select either gaming or hospitality management as a specialism.

Third-year students are encouraged to participate in a 2-week field trip to Las Vegas and Hawaii. In the morning, they will be attending lectures at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, and in the afternoon, they will be visiting casinos and hotels. The University of Nevada, Las Vegas offers degree programmes in Hospitality and Hotel Management.

Kitty Kuong took part in the field trip when she was studying at the University of Macau. She said that compared to America, where travel agencies, hotels and the government collaborated, Macau still had plenty of room for improvement. Kitty was one of the first graduates of the Hospitality and Gaming Management programme.