Macau vs Las Vegas: Which is The Best Gambling City?

Macau vs Las Vegas

Who wins the Macau vs Las Vegas argument?

These two cities are often mentioned in the same breath when talking about the best gambling destinations on earth, however, they bring completely different vibes to the table. 

In the blue corner… we have Macau. The lesser-known autonomous region, formerly a Portuguese colony, is accessible via Hong Kong; a place that most people can’t point out on a map.

In the red corner… Las Vegas needs less of an introduction. Made famous via musical artists and Hollywood movies – the city is almost synonymous with debauchery and bad decisions that are best left never spoken about before.

I visited Macau on my 30th birthday and after begging the USA embassy in Mexico City to let me in after an ESTA rejection, I finally got to party in Las Vegas so I’m pretty excited to write this post.

Macau vs Las Vegas: Rating The Showdown

When people talk about Macau vs Las Vegas it’s usually centered around gambling more than anything else.

While I will certainly have a heavier focus on that I will also talk about the two cities from the perspective of a traveller (this is predominantly a travel blog after all).

In this article, we will see which city does better as a net total taking into account the casinos, poker and whatnot and also which city has better things to do as a tourist.

Gambling Laws

Gambling tax laws, rates, and rules vary significantly between Las Vegas and Macau. Both destinations may be renowned for their gaming industries, yet they operate under very different tax frameworks.

Here’s an overview of how gambling taxes work in these two renowned gambling destinations and the notable differences, particularly from a tourist’s perspective:

Las Vegas Gambling Laws

In Las Vegas, gambling winnings are subject to federal income tax, but there are no direct state taxes on gambling winnings due to Nevada’s tax laws. However, tourists need to understand the following:

  • Federal Taxes: Gambling winnings in Las Vegas are subject to a federal withholding tax of 24% for U.S. residents if the winnings minus the wager are above a certain threshold ($5,000 or more in many cases like poker tournaments, sweepstakes, lotteries, and horse races). Non-resident aliens are subject to a 30% tax on gambling winnings, which is often taken directly from the winnings.
  • Reporting Winnings: Winners are typically issued a W-2G form for winnings above $1,200 from bingo or slot machine, $1,500 from keno, and $5,000 from poker tournament winnings. It’s the gambler’s responsibility to report all gambling winnings to the IRS, although this is mostly for non-U.S. tourists.
  • Tax Recovery for Tourists: Non-U.S. tourists who have gambling winnings might be able to reclaim some or all of the withholding tax if there exists a tax treaty between the U.S. and their country of residence.

Macau Gambling Laws

Macau’s approach to taxing gambling winnings is quite different from Las Vegas, primarily because the tax burden falls more on the casinos than on the players. Here are the key points for tourists:

  • Casino Taxation: Casinos in Macau pay a 35% tax on gross gaming revenue, with additional levies bringing the effective tax rate to about 39%. This tax is paid by the casinos, not the gamblers.
  • No Tax on Winnings for Tourists: Tourists who gamble in Macau do not pay tax on their winnings, regardless of their country of origin. There is no withholding tax on gambling winnings for anyone, making it a tax-free experience for players.
  • Reporting Requirements: Unlike in the U.S., tourists in Macau are not required to report their winnings to any tax authority, and there are no tax forms to be filled out when claiming winnings.

Macau wins this round based on the fact that tourists are not required to pay any taxes on any winnings. I am from the United Kingdom, where we have possibly the most liberal gambling laws in the world so I find all of the above awfully draconian.

It doesn’t surprise me that the US has strict laws for gambling, but please make a note that I am only talking about tax laws in this category – I will be looking at the Macau vs Las Vegas gambling experience (which place is more fun) later on in this article.

Which City is Better For Travel?

A man in a black t shirt and pink shorts bungee jumps off a large tower in Macau, China.
Saying goodbye to my 20s and literally leaping into my 30s from the Macau Tower bungee jump!

This is an easy one for me and it’s a 2-0 scorecard for Macau.

While I thoroughly enjoyed my time in Vegas, Macau is simply more different to my own culture than it is from the one I grew up in. The USA and UK are not the same, but they are more alike than the UK and Macau.

I like weird travel and well, Macau is a bit of a weirdo. 

It is a city that also happens to be a country in East Asia where the minorities speak Portuguese. China claims it as their own, although you don’t need to apply for a Chinese visa from the Chinese government. Macau has its legal system, police force, monetary system, customs policy, and immigration policy. It maintains its own local government and is not part of The United Nations.

It’s also an unrecognised micronation.

I love all of this odd stuff and I’m sure Las Vegas lovers will (correctly) tell me there are more things to do in Vegas than just gamble and get hammered (although make sure you have a Las Vegas injury lawyer at hand if that’s your bag), but I am running on nostalgia from doing the highest bungee jump in the world from Macau Tower on a milestone birthday, so this one was a no-brainer for me.

Food Options

Macanese cuisine is a fascinating blend of Cantonese and Portuguese influences, with a dash of flavours from India, Africa, and Southeast Asia.

The USA is a country of multi-generational immigrants so you have food from all corners of the world when you come to Las Vegas and it’s also a better option for people with stricter food requirements like vegans, veggies and gluten-free.

As much as I love Asian food, Vegas has the win here for me because I like to have an abundance of choices and in Vegas, you are spoiled for choice when it comes to culinary options.

Macau 2 – 1 Vegas.


Nightlife is better in Las Vegas for the same reason as above; Vegas is simply bigger in volume and while bigger doesn’t always mean better it deserves its label as “The Entertainment Capital of the World,” or at least top 10.

Macau’s nightlife is in more concentrated areas and admittedly the language barrier makes it harder to navigate the best bars in town, most of them coming with prestige and stricter dress codes.

Vegas pulls it back to 2-2 with its busy nightlife.

Which City is Better For a Gambling Experience?

Macau gambling

The moment we’ve all been waiting for in the Macau vs Las Vegas showdown; which city is the best gambling city?

If you have a healthy relationship with gambling then I am not judging. Although I have just completed Dry January I am looking for something else to make me feel smug and superior to other human beings.

I like a cheeky gamble now and then so I dabbled in both destinations.

I already tipped my hat to Macau for the gambling rules and regulations, but when it comes to the overall atmosphere Las Vegas is mountains better than Macau. Over in East Asia, the feeling is very off and locals genuinely don’t look like they are enjoying themselves.

Vegas can be a little boisterous, brash and annoying with the general clientele but at least everyone looks like they are having fun! 

Macau gamblers looked miserable so it was hard to enjoy it as much as Vegas where people are letting loose and trying their best to have a good time by messing with their dopamine levels in a casino.

Macau Vs Las Vegas: My Conclusion

It’s a “Viva Las Vegas” from me after this toughly fought battle. Coming from behind at 2-0 down, the scorching hot city in Nevada simply has more options for travellers and gamblers and it’s a better party scene.

Now it’s time for you to visit both so you can have your own say in who wins the Macau vs Las Vegas showdown.

Anthony Middleton

A former loser who took a risk. I now live in Chiang Mai, Thailand after visiting over 100 countries. Stay tuned for the next challenge against that clock!
Ultra runner walking in desert

Hi, I'm Anthony!

In November of 2010, I took on a mammoth challenge against the clock in a quest to upgrade my miserable life. I went out of my comfort zone and turned it all around. Ten years later, I’m completely location independent…

Follow me!

Read All About East Asia, Macau, North America, and USA