David DeVoss on “Macau Hits the Jackpot”

David DeVoss
Ed Brooks

David DeVoss is a journalist who spent more than a quarter century working for Time, The Los Angeles Times and Asia, Inc., a Hong Kong business magazine. He currently operates a print media company called the East-West News Service and the website US-China Travel News.

What drew you to this story? Can you describe its genesis?
I spent a lot of time in Macau during the late 1970s when I was a Time Magazine correspondent in Hong Kong. When Sheldon Adelson and Steve Wynn won Macau gaming concessions in 2003, I wrote a story for Asia, Inc. on how western investment could revitalize the crime-plagued city. One Sunday morning in December 2006 I opened the newspaper and read that Macau gaming revenues exceeded those of the Las Vegas Strip. By the time I suggested the story, Macau's revenues had surpassed the State of Nevada. When I finally arrived in Macau, gaming revenues were expected to top Nevada and Atlantic City combined by 2012.

But this story's not about gambling. It's about the most visible manifestation of modern China and the incredible wealth it is generating.

What surprised you the most while covering Macau?
That in less than a decade Macau has gone from a crime-infested backwater with high unemployment to a vibrant city that is poised to become the entertainment capital of Asia. Also the lingering influence and civic involvement of the 3,000 Portuguese that continue to call Macau home.

What was your favorite moment during your reporting?
My fifth night in Macau, I was invited to a wine tasting at the residence of Portuguese ambassador Pedro Moitinho de Almeida. He lives in a beautiful colonial structure at the tip of the peninsula that once was the Bela Vista Hotel, where I often stayed during reporting trips for Time. My date for the evening was Maria Helena Rodrigues, head of Portugal's Orient Foundation. After the reception, we walked down to her apartment just below the Bela Vista and stood out on the terrace. Thirty years before, I stood above the terrace on the veranda of the Bela Vista watching bat-winged fishing junks sail down the Pearl River. Now the view was dominated by soaring suspension bridges, man-made lagoons and the Macau Tower.

Do you think the development of the gambling industry has helped or hurt Macanese culture?
The Macanese culture has a bright future because of the economic prosperity resulting from gambling.

Was there anything fun or interesting that didn't make the final draft of the story?
There are more Chinese studying the Portuguese language today in Macau than there were when Macau was a Portuguese colony. Why? Because China is desperately searching for natural resources to sustain its booming economy and Macau has become China's doorway to the resource-rich—and Portuguese-speaking—nations of Brazil, Angola and Mozambique.

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