The best casino in Macau isn't the biggest

In search of the best casino in Macau, I visited the two most talked about of the new casinos: the MGM Grand and The Venetian.

The MGM Grand is a ten minute hop from the ferry port serving Hong Kong. It’s also within walking distance of the historical sites of the old town of Macau.

The Ventian, on the other hand, is a twenty minute bus ride away, it’s across a bridge on another island.

MGM Grand feels more upscale. It’s newer, and it feels new. The staff is very friendly and well trained. They had an exhibit of Picasso sculptures which I enjoyed. While both casinos serve free non-alcoholic drinks, only MGM Grand hands out fresh squeezed glasses of mango, orange juice, and a number of other exotic tropical fruit juices -- a few of which I can’t even name.

By contrast, the free orange juice they serve at The Venetian is artificial.

It’s not only the orange juice that seems fake at the The Venetian. The whole thing is an artless imitation of all things Venetian. Size over quality. I also didn’t like seeing all the bright yellow security guards hanging around the tables at the Venetian. They were too imposing. Security people shouldn’t be in-your-face. The bright yellow uniforms were a stretch.

MGM Grand, on the other hand, obviously hired the more competent people to design the place. They invested in their staff. They designed their spectacular atrium lobby to resemble a Portuguese town square – like you find in the old town. It’s tasteful and doesn’t look cheap, the way the Venetian casino’s attempt at reproducing Venice looks. MGM manages to be both cheerful and inspiring. I would go back there.

There is a large upscale shopping mall at The Venetian -- a fair selection of some high-end brands. A shopping mall will be opening near MGM in the near future.

The Venetian has a Starbucks, MGM does not. But then the free coffee they serve you at the MGM Grand casino is so good, you don’t need one!

MGM proves that less is sometimes more. The one thing I enjoyed about the Venetian was the gondolas. The integration of the waterways with the mall could have been done so much better, but I admired the Italian gondola drivers – some of whom were decent singers. These guys were making the best of an exceedingly cheesy situation. The surrealism of watching them was like stepping into such a fantastically corny place that it made my visit to The Venetian seem worthwhile.

One note of caution: nobody at any of the tables at either casino appeared to be winning all that much money. I never saw anyone with any huge stacks of chips. However, with my undercover video camera I caught someone losing big at The Ventian.

Check out this video of my trip to The Venetian:

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