Uncle Ho, Chairman Mao and Steve Wynn

Tourists gamble on the main floor of the Sands casino in central Macau. It has 740 tables, more than any other casino in the world

Tourists gamble on the main floor of the Sands casino in central Macau. It has 740 tables, more than any other casino in the world

A few times in the last couple of years I have written about casinos in Vietnam; the theme is always the same, who would have believed that the final result of all of those years of bitterness, killing and strife would be casinos in the country of Uncle Ho?   Is that what John Kennedy was thinking when he sent us off to stop the spread of communism?  Is that was Ho Chi Minh was thinking when he encircled the French in Dien Bien Phu?  Was that in the minds those brave men of the French Foreign Legionnaires who jumped into to fight that battle, knowing for certain they would die in jungle?   Was Ho thinking about dice and cards when he launched the Tet offensive?  However unlikely casinos in Vietnam might have been they are not the most unlikely casinos in the region.

Are not casinos in the land of Chairman Mao, leader of the Long March, founding father of the People’s Republic of China and architect of the Cultural Revolution even less likely?   Mao Zedong was that your plan, casinos? Okay, there are no casinos on the mainland of China, yet; but in the providence of Macau there certainly are – in September the casinos in Macau did $2.6 billion in revenue, up 39 percent from September 2010.  Macau was a Portuguese colony for 500 years and has always had some very un-Chinese things about it – but Chinese it is never-the-less; and the gamblers that drive its casinos are certainly Chinese – at least 90 percent of them are.

The irony of the casinos within the empire built by the great Chinese revolutionary and communist has never really struck me before today.  I have always thought about the casinos in Macau has a continuation of the business that existed before Macau returned to Chinese rule in 1999 – or simply thought about it industry terms. But today there was a story about Wynn Macau’ s hotel rooms being filled this week with Chinese on holiday celebrating Nation Day.   Thousands and thousands of Chinese fleeing the mainland to gamble in honor of the foundation of the People’s Republic of China and by inference Chairman Mao.  What a tribute to a life-time of commitment to revolution and communism.

When I think about Vietnam and gambling I try to imagine the men I knew there, dressed in our fatigues, carrying as we always did a weapon sitting in a bar in Saigon or Danang talking about the reasons we were in Vietnam – no matter how hard I try I cannot get to “to make the country safe for casinos.”  We could not imagine losing the war, but less could we have imagined the changes 40 years would make in a Communist Vietnam.  As taxing as that can be, imagine you had been on the long march, fought the Japanese or lived through the Cultural Revolution – what would you say to your comrades?  Oh, yes we fought, we starved and we died to make Steve Wynn richer?

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