The Maven Meter: MGM Cotai Casino & Hotel
(Last updated: August 23, 2023)
More than a decade after opening MGM Macau on the old Peninsula, MGM Resorts have finally set up shop on the Cotai Strip, with the long awaited debut of MGM Cotai on February 13, 2018. Designed to resemble a classic Chinese jewellery box, it looks more like a child’s Lego project gone off the rails, a haphazard stacking of blocks that’s both artistic and alarming at the same time. Quite how it remains upright I don’t know, but I guess that’s what superior engineering and $3.6 billion dollars does for you in 2018.
Small for Cotai, the 35 story interactive resort features only 1390 rooms, but what it lacks in size it makes up in style, and a whole lot of art, with well over 300 pieces. The focus point inside is the Spectacle, a high tech central atrium featuring 25 LED screens that broadcast images of wildlife photography and digital art, but the real quality lies elsewhere – in the two lobbies lined in crystal and jade, the 28 Qing Dynasty imported from the Forbidden City, and all of the paintings, sculptures, ceramics and lacquer works displayed around the property.
Bar Patua is another must see as well, a gorgeous lounge fitted with retro Portuguese and Macanese furniture, it’s like stepping back into the 70’s when the Lisboa just opened and Stanley Ho only had two or three wives.
Speaking of gambling, the casino takes up less than 10% of overall floor space, with just 187 tables in the mass gaming area, along with a smattering of slots and electronic games. New Cotai properties got the shaft from the Macau government starting from when Studio City opened, part of their city wide campaign to keep table numbers down. Back in the glory days, MGM Cotai would have gotten as many as they wanted.
MGM Cotai Photo Gallery
MGM COTAI CASINO
When Dylan sang he didn’t need a weatherman to know which way the wind blows, he might as well have been talking about Macau casinos. You shouldn’t need me or anyone else to tell you what to expect, because they’re all cut from the same cloth, and MGM Cotai is no exception. Since it’s an American company, there’s a good assortment of Western games available, namely Blackjack, Craps, Caribbean Stud Poker, Roulette and Three Card Poker, while everything else is for the Chinese, which basically means table after table of expensive Commission Free Baccarat.
I often wonder why just one casino in Macau – just one! – can’t think out of the box and try something new. Back in the day I always enjoyed going to the Hard Rock Casino at City of Dreams because it reminded me a little casinos back home – the dealers were young and wore reasonably revealing outfits, the clientele was more international and it just had a more uptempo happening vibe.
I was kind of hoping MGM Cotai would be the first casino to bring downtown Vegas to Macau, with party pits, Happy Hours, younger dealers, friendlier dealers, hotter dealers, scintillating Asian staff working it, more free flowing booze, more stage shows, more live music, more flavour and more fun. They could even call the freaking casino “Las Vegas” and see where that takes them instead of just repeating what’s already been done ad nauseam since the beginning of the SJM monopoly in 1962. And if it doesn’t work, hey, you tear it down and acquiesce. You throw your cards in and play Baccarat. You get in line with everyone else.
As it is, I’m left writing another casino review that could be a total cut and paste job from the other 40 I’ve churned out the past 10 years. MGM Cotai has 187 tables on the main floor, the overwhelming majority of which are Commission Free Baccarat, starting from $1000 a hand. Live Gaming is limited to $50, $100, $200 and $300 Baccarat, while electronic machines consist of Commission Free Baccarat ($10), Big Wheel ($25), Craps ($50), Roulette ($20) and Sic Bo ($30). Slots number around 720, starting from 5 cents and topping out at $10.
One thing that needs mentioning is that the drink service at MGM has always been spectacular. I routinely pop in and raid their lemonade stock five or six glasses at a time. Of course, alcoholic beverages are readily available too, provided they can see you’re gambling.
MGM COTAI GAMES
Games are the same as at MGM Macau.
Baccarat – I didn’t see a single Baccarat table open, even in the high limit section. Probably got to go to VIP for that action.
Commission Free Baccarat – Players win only 50% on a won Banker bet that totals 6. Minimum bet is a pricey $1000.
Blackjack – Minimum bet is $500, which is totally out of line.
What’s even more out of line is that MGM casinos offer the worst Blackjack in Macau. Not only can you just split up to 3 hands (-0.01%), but Doubles made with totals of 11 lose both bets vs a Dealer Blackjack, instead of just the original wager. This results in a house edge of 0.25% compared to the standard number of 0.16% city wide.
Lucky 7 and Over Under 13 side bets are also available, but know that side bets are sucker bets, so just leave them alone.
Caribbean Stud Poker – Goes by the name “MGM Stud Poker”, which is no different than normal CSP, other than the side bet. Instead of only betting the flat $25 on the Progressive Side Bet, players can bet up to $125, and then win more money than usual if they hit a four of a kind, flush or straight. For example, under normal circumstances, a $25 side bet pays $1000 on a straight. But if the player instead bet $50 or $75, they would win $2000 or $3000 respectively. If you hit the royal or straight flush though, the 100% and 10% payouts stay the same.
Minimum bet on the ante is $300.
Craps – One table with 3-4-5 odds and a short-pay field. Minimum pass line bet is $300.
Roulette – Minimum bets of $50 Inside and $200 Outside, which is decent these days.
Sic Bo – Big/Small minimums are $200. Kudos to MGM for giving that in Cotai.
Slot Machines – Around 720 slot machines, with lows from 5 cents to $10.
Also has electronic versions of Commission Free Baccarat ($10), Big Wheel ($25), Craps ($50), Roulette ($20) and Sic Bo ($30).
Live Gaming is just Baccarat with lows from $50 to $300.
The Craps machine accrues points very slowly if one is only making Pass, Don’t, Come, and Don’t come bets (with the three times odds allowed). Freeplay cannot be redeemed on it either.
Texas Hold ‘Em – MGM is dropping an ante down on Texas Hold ‘Em, which used to be a lot more prevalent in Macau a decade ago. Almost identical to the Texas Hold ‘Em at MGM Macau, they have one more higher blind of $1000/$2000.
The rake is a standard 5%, but is capped at the number above, should the pot be abnormally high. Per usual, there are no tournaments, just cash games.
Three Card Poker – $300 minimums.
MGM COTAI PROMOTIONS
The VIP program at MGM Cotai returns the same rates as at MGM Macau.
Their VIP program for foreign guests also returns the same cash back percentage and comp allowance figures.
MGM COTAI HOTEL
After I railed on Wynn Palace for being that sorry excuse of space and waste, I’m pretty much obligated to give MGM Cotai two thumbs up. It’s cut from a much nicer (silk) cloth than most of their Cotai counterparts who go big then go home, leaving the masses to their gondolas, Ferris wheels, and cable car rides, as they gaze longingly at Cinderella’s slipper and a Diamond of Fortune, under the shadow of the Eiffel Tower.
Instead, MGM went smart and subtle, aiming for a savvy, more sophisticated crowd into art and aesthetics, not the usual selfie stick cheapness that inundates this part of Macau.
A great way to see the resort and learn about the art is to take a free guided tour that happen daily at 11:30, 14:00, 16:00, and 18:00. Lasting for about an hour, reservations need to be made in advance by contacting the Hotel directly at (853) 8806 2830.
Here are some of the highlights after taking the tour in January 2019.
-The main lobby, for Hsaio Chin’s Dancing Light painting and gorgeous glass ceiling adorned with a sculpture of flying leaves.
-The Emerald Lobby’s 28 Qing dynasty rugs imported from the Forbidden City and chandelier covered in 150,000 Swarvoski crystals.
-And of course the Emerald Lobby itself, which is just certifiably gorgeous.
-Pop art, like Eight Views of Macau and Journey to the Great West.
While I certainly admire what MGM Cotai has done to a certain degree, I wonder if they’ve done enough to leave their mark in Cotai. It’s not a family friendly resort, lacking Kid Zones, games and performances, nor is there much of anything for walk in visitors to really see or do, other than to appreciate the art, which won’t be for everybody.
They invested a lot of time and money into the Spectacle, but I’m still trying to figure out what it is exactly. Marketed as an “innovative, multi-dimensional sensory experience”, I just see 25 LED screens that show one odd thing or another, juxtaposed by MGM Cotai’s main restaurants, strange green walls of vegetation and occasional retail outlet.
Wang Kaifang’s gold house named Harmony is supposed to simulate silk moving through air, but it’s just an offbeat misshapen structure that sticks out like a sore thumb, one that’s already being abused by mainland guests.
Less than a year old and it’s already getting scratched up… why am I not surprised?
Across the way, the 23 foot Janice Wong chocolate fountain could be fun but the fact that it’s encased in a plastic shield that prevents 98% percent of people from noticing it and paying it proper mind.
Granted, on clear days when the sun busts down through the clear dome ceiling, or at night when it’s all dark and menacing, the Spectacle can look somewhat cool, but it’s still a far cry from the gorgeous Grande Praca at MGM Macau, particularly on cloudy days.
Current room rates are in Macau Mops, inclusive of all tax and service charges:
Rooms booked 7 days in advance off the MGM website are entitled to 15% off. However, I still think it might be cheaper to go through Trip.com or Booking.com instead.
MGM Cotai Hotel Room
As for the rooms, MGM Cotai offers a solid product but one that, at least in terms of the basic offering, is not going to “wow” anyone. The overall emphasis is on function over form.
The floors are clad in flimsy looking imitation hardwood paneling that is not going to hold up well to abuse from mainland visitors, and an overuse of earth tones throughout the room, while a common design trait of MGM properties everywhere, has the effect of making a brand-new space look very dated indeed.
Everything in the room can be controlled via a smartphone-like device that charges wirelessly beside the bed. This is also used for calls to the front desk, which sadly, ended up being commonplace during a stay a few weeks after the hotel opened.
MGM Cotai provides only a couple of tiny bottles of water in the room. While one would expect more to be only a phone call away, I was outright refused more water twice, asked to pay for it once, only to have some more water bottles show up anyway each time with apologies from the staff.
The rainforest shower in the room is a strong point that makes up for the completely forgettable and absurdly tiny bathtub.
Amenities in the room were sadly lacking. This may be the first five-star hotel anywhere in greater China that does not offer a bathrobe in-room. It’s possible that the MGM is trying to avoid giving mainland visitors bathrobes because they tend to walk around the resort in them, but whatever the case, their absence is not really acceptable in a hotel of this caliber. It may be that the nicer rooms have them.
Essentially, the standard room offering at MGM Cotai is on the level of a nice boutique hotel on the mainland. Clean and functional, if you can get them for a good deal, you won’t be disappointed. But if you book on a weekend when prices are surging everywhere, you might as well spend your money at a place like Wynn Cotai and get a bit more bang for your buck.
(This room description is by Spencer Musick, a sports journalist in Beijing who visited the property a few weeks after it opened last year. It may be that things on the service end have improved. Thanks for that description Spencer!)
MGM COTAI POOL
The pool is a very strong point for MGM Cotai. It is safe to say that it ranks alongside the Grand Lisboa as one of the best ones in Macau.
Tastefully lit, well-proportioned, and empty most of the time (most mainland Chinese don’t come to Macau to swim laps), it also boasts a view of the building that really gives one the impression that they are living the dream.
A highlight of the experience is a row of hot soaking jacuzzis with automated jets that blast patrons through vibrating metal recliners. The only thing it is missing is a bar staffed by beautiful women to serve you a cocktail while you are being assaulted by the jacuzzi jets.
For non-MGM guests, pool access can be purchased for $460, or $230 if you’re a casino member, which costs nothing to become. That allows 4 hour use of the pool, gym, sauna, steam room and jacuzzi. $230 is a sweet rate for all that action, I ain’t going to lie to you.
The pool hours is open from 7:00 am to 9:00 pm daily.
MGM COTAI RESTAURANTS
It’s strange that there’s no buffet restaurant at MGM Cotai, only Coast which does it in the morning for in house guests. There are 8 restaurants on site, as well as a Starbucks somewhere for all you poor souls with no imagination.
Chun – Chun is MGM Cotai’s high brow fine dining Cantonese restaurant, featuring prices that ran the gamut.
At lunch, signature dishes run $188 to $698 while a wide array of dim sum costs $50 to $128. A fancy looking set menu is on for $1380 which features Chinese red wine (good luck with that), while a smaller 4 course set is $358. They also have a dim sum special, where you can choose 3 for $168 or 6 for $288.
The menu is much more detailed at night, featuring appetizers ($80 to $300), barbecue ($195 to $880), soup ($80 to $3880), vegetables ($98 to $328) and noodles and rice ($188 to $298). For pricier options, consider the Chef’s Recommendations ($70 to $1080), birds nest ($268 to $688), abalone and dried seafood ($488 to $2588), meat ($188 to $550), and poultry ($200 to $580).
Hours daily are from 12:00 am to 3 pm, and from 6 pm to 10 pm at night.
Five Foot Road – Spicy spicy Sichuan food on offer at Five Foot Road. Quite surprisingly, they were able to snag a Michelin star in 2023. I never saw that coming.
Starting with the sets, a 6 course lunch special is on for just $298, while an 8 course Chef’s Recommendation menu is $880, or $1160 with tea and $1330 with wine.
The rest of the menu is a la carte, featuring Sichuan local snacks ($60 to $90), appetizers ($90 to $380), soup ($110 to $150), vegetables ($90 to $230), and rice and noodles ($70 to $90). To go up a notch price-wise, signature dishes run $80 to $698, while Chef Yang’s recommendations are $110 to $380, and birds nest and dried seafood $160 to $680. There’s also seafood available for $180 to $960 and meat and poultry for $150 to $480.
Hours daily are from 12:00 pm to 3 pm, and 6:00 pm to 10:00 pm.
Hao Guo – Hao Guo used to have a large hot pot menu, but I only see a single hot pot set available now, running $1188 for 2 people. It comes with a a choice of 3 seafood and 8 ingredients. Viciously overpriced (as hot pot always is), save trying it till you’re on the mainland when it’s about 500 rumbas cheaper.
The rest of the menu features regional Chinese dishes like dim sum ($45 to $60), Guangdong favorites ($90 to $290), congee, rice and noodles ($50 to $228) and vegetables ($70 to $110). Live seafood goes for $280 to $5980, while barbecue is $80 to $240 and local delights $90 to $880. Appetizers and soup complete the menu with prices $60 to $180 and $60 to $120 respectively.
Hours daily from 11 am to 3 pm, and 6 pm to 10 pm at night. Hotpot is only served in the evenings from 6 pm to 11 pm.
Mian Dui Mian – Mian Dui Mian is MGM Cotai’s only fast food restaurant. Serving handmade noodles and dumplings, it’s located on the casino floor.
Let’s just rattle off the dishes one by one, in order to save space and time. They are Chef’s Recommendations ($68 to $438), Noodles ($58 to $78), Wok Fried Noodles ($88 to $108), Appetizers ($48 to $138), Soup ($38 to $208), Dim Sum ($38 to $118), Northern ($48 to $58), Dumplings ($48 to $68), BBQ ($98 to $168), Hot Plates ($78 to $238), and Vegetables ($48 to $68).
Mian Dui Mian is open 24 hours.
Aji – Original head chef Mitsuharu Tsumura left for Hong Kong sometime during Covid, leaving Aji a shell of its former self. I had an excellent lunch there in 2019, but that review is useless now. The only thing on offer is a 9 course set for $1680, or $2280 with wine pairing. Without Mitsuharu Tsumura’s wizardry, Aji doesn’t stand a chance.
Aji is open from 12 pm to 3 pm and 6 pm to 10 pm. It’s closed on Tuesdays and Wednesdays.
Coast – Coast is trying to emulate “America’s West Coast lifestyle” and the “spirit of California”. Okay whatever. Anyway, they serve international fare and feature a breakfast buffet for in house guests.
Salads and soup run $68 to $138, while tacos, sandwiches and burgers are $138 to $268, and pizzas $108 to $258. Pasta goes for $98 to $208, while meat favourites range from $118 to $728, and seafood $118 to $828. The rest of the menu is composed of snacks ($68 to $208) and rice dishes ($118 to $218).
LOL at the reminder on the website that guests aren’t encouraged to wear their bathrobes, swimwear or slippers in the restaurant. Shouldn’t that go without saying?
Coast is open daily from 7 am to 3 pm and 6 pm to 10 pm.
Grill 58 – According to the MGM website the chef, Mauro Colagreco, has two Michelin stars. I’m assuming that’s from his restaurant in France named Mirazur which was ranked #3 in the world by the World’s Best 50 Restaurants in 2018. That’s all fine and nice, but a chef can’t be in two kitchens at once, so take those stars (and Grill 58 as well) with a grain of salt.
Serving pricey international fare, appetizers cost $130 to $380, while soup is $110 to $160 and seafood $75 to $1800. Main meat favourites range in price from $380 to $550, while beef sourced from all over the world, including Spain, the States, Australia, Argentina, and Japan costs $340 to $2500.
On Sunday they serve brunch for $400 (3 courses) and $480 (4 courses).
They also dabble in quite a bit of teppanyaki, with sets that range in price from $988 to $2188, while a la carte choices are between $100 and $1500.
Friday is “Sommelier Night” from 6 pm to 8:30 pm, where you can sample 8 wines with a professional sommelier for just $238.
Grill 58 is closed on Mondays. Tuesday to Sunday hours are from 6 pm to 11 pm.
Anytime – Janice Wong took her rolling pin and went home, meaning Asia’s Best Pastry Chef in 2013 and 2014, and Pastry Chef of the Year in 2011, 2013, and 2015 no longer plies her trade at MGM Cotai.
Anytime deals in classic Western dishes with an emphasis on decadence and degeneracy. To wit, bottles of champagne run $1800 to $6100 when served with caviar and $930 to $5950 when accompanied by 6 oysters. “Let them eat cake”, a famous headless Queen once said and Anytime answers the bell with 21 different kinds, each of which cost $318. Forget your garden variety vanilla or strawberry flavours too, because they’re going with elite choices like Red Pitaya, Pineapple Garden, Champagne Citrus, and Mango Vanilla Chiffon.
The menu is quite extensive, featuring appetizers ($78 to $88), eggs ($88 to $228), salad ($108 to $188), soup ($98 to $138) and sandwiches ($88 to $148). Mains include galette and quiche ($88 to $128), risotto and pasta ($108 to $188), and classic meat favourites ($208 to $288). For desserts, they offer sweets for $68 to $118 and pieces of cake for $48 and $58.
An all day set menu runs $148 on weekdays, and is comprised of one dish with dessert and coffee, tea or bubble milk tea.
Outside the restaurant there’s a 7.3 meter chocolate fountain straight out of Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory, featuring free flowing rivers of dark, milk and white chocolate.
Hours daily are from 11:00 am to 8:00 pm.
MGM COTAI SPA
I’m a big fan of Tria Spa at MGM Macau, so I’m guessing the one at MGM Cotai will be just as good, if not better. Both spas have the same name and use the same menu, which is listed below.
120 to 180 minute Tria Rituals: $1980 to $3280
90 to 135 minute Wellness Packages: $1180 to $3280
60 minute Massage $780 to $1380 | 90 minute massage: $1480 to $2280
60 minute to 90 minute Facials: $1080 to $1980
30 or 60 minute Body Treatments: $680 to $1380
Sadly, all of their Couples Massages and Romance Packages have been discontinued.
If you just want to use the sauna and steam room, the door pass is $460, even for hotel guests. If you’re staying in a more premium room however, they’ll waive the fee and let you go in for free.
Tria Spa is located on the 3rd floor and keeps hours from 11 am to 11 pm daily.
MGM COTAI GYM
MGM Cotai’s gym is so good that it doubles as a public membership club that costs $28,888 Mops for 1 year. That means it’s armed to the teeth with a full regiment of exercise classes like yoga, spinning, aerobics, body surfing, and a couple of other ones I’ve never heard of before. MGM guests are allowed to join those classes for free, while one to one sessions with professional trainers cost extra money. An easy 10 out of 10, it’s definitely the best and most comprehensive gym in Cotai.
In order to use the gym you have to access it via the sauna on the 3rd floor and go through the formalities of signing in with the front desk staff. Hours are from 6 am to 10 pm daily.
MGM COTAI ENTERTAINMENT
The first thing that comes to my mind when I think of MGM is movies, of course. The famous Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Studios in Beverly Hills, blockbusters, stars, scandals, Academy Awards and all the glitz and glamour of Hollywood. That’s why I’m always disappointed when MGM craps out in the entertainment department in Macau.
Of course, there actually might be a very good reason for it, since MGM Resorts International, the entity that owns both MGM Macau and MGM Cotai actually has nothing to do with MGM Studios, and hasn’t since 1979. Regardless, they still use the lion, they still use the name, and it would be nice if they started using their new 2000 seat MGM Theatre to some positive effect.
MGM Theatre – Marketed as Asia’s first dynamic theatre, MGM Theatre hasn’t lived up the billing yet. Dark most of the time, perhaps you’ll catch a break when in town and something will be on. Just keep tabs on our Cotai Strip Attractions page for shows and dates.
Just one bar at MGM Cotai, but it’s a beauty.
Bar Patua – Bar Patua is named after the old native language of Macau that’s rarely used anymore. It started losing prominence about 100 years ago, when the local government started promoting standard Portuguese instead, with the handover in 1999 probably sealing its fate for good.
A cosmopolitan mix of Portuguese and dialects from their old trading ports and destinations, Patua is as old as Macau itself, and came into being when circumstances dictated that the first wave of Portuguese settlers and their descendants take Asian wives. Like all languages, Patua kept changing and evolving through the centuries, its words and grammar dictated by the winds of the trade seasons, its vowels and sounds a smorgasbord of love and sailor’s tales.
Language is shaped like 8’s
Can mould it, can fold it
Can make a family sing
(A bonus verse from the Maven today scrawled on a Bar Patua napkin….)
Estimates suggest that only 30 to 40 people still speak Patua today, the majority of whom won’t live to see next decade. If I ever get some free time, I’d absolutely love to start learning it.
Anyway, back to Bar Patua, which gets my vote as he most beautiful small bar/lounge in town. A truly splendid space, it’s outfitted with handsome Portuguese and Macanese furniture, and would probably look a lot better in the Lisboa somewhere rather than in a Cotai Strip resort, but we’ll take quality wherever we can get it these days.
Prices are totally reasonable as well, considering the warm soulful environs. Beers are just $40 to $65, while hard stuff runs $80 to $220 and cocktails $128 to $138. Bottles of champagne go for $1100 to $13600, while white wine is $450 to $5600 and red wine $550 to $4500. If you prefer them by glass instead, champagne is $220 to $800, white wine $100 to $145 and red wine $110 to $160. Coffee, tea, and juice, finally, are between $40 and $60.
Seeing as Patua is a cocktail of Asian and European languages, there’s probably no better place in Macau to enjoy a cocktail then! My only complaint is that they don’t have Caipirinhas, which is just wrong, wrong, wrong.
Located around the corner from the Emerald Lobby, Bar Patua hours are from 6 pm to 1 am daily.
The shopping quarter at MGM Cotai isn’t as big as I expected, but then again, how large does it really need to be? The hotel is surrounded by monster shopping malls in every direction, from the Wynn Palace to Londoner Macao to City of Dreams to the Venetian etc.
If you can’t find what you’re looking for in one of MGM Cotai’s 20 shops and boutiques, then another huge resort hotel just around the corner should have you covered.
THE LAST WORD
MGM Cotai never had any intention of competing on the same stage as the Venetian or Parisian, so it would be unfair to judge them by that criteria. Instead, they took a different angle, one that embraces art, aesthetics, and beauty in a way that’s yet to be done on the Cotai Strip. Whether that strategy will bear fruit remains to be seen, since there’s essentially nothing for children or families to do, while walk in visitors aren’t given much incentive to drop by either.
At this point in time, it’s fair to question if they’ve done enough, but art lovers will be sure to dig it.