The Maven Meter: Sands Macao Casino & Hotel
(Last updated: August 23, 2023)
SANDS MACAO INTRODUCTION
Debuting in 2004, the Sands Macao was Las Vegas Sands first venture into the Macau casino market, and they’d never make another hotel like it again. With no gondolas, Eiffel Towers, Big Bens or anything remotely resembling the glitz and glamour of Vegas, it’s a throwback to a time nobody wants to return to.
Sands Macao Photo Gallery
SANDS MACAO CASINO GAMES
Baccarat – I saw one solitary Baccarat table in the high limit section with a $3000 minimum. Perhaps they are preserving it as an artifact?
Commission Free Baccarat – Exactly 100% of the Baccarat tables on the main floor are Commission Free Baccarat. Minimum bet is $500.
Fast Action Baccarat – Fast Action Baccarat is the same as Commission Free Baccarat, except it’s played on an absurdly large 21 foot table that can accommodate up to 60 players at a time. Lost bets immediately fall through a trap door on top of the table, while floor attendants whisk chip trolleys down the line paying out Won bets seconds after the result is in. Since the Dealer conducts all play by flipping over the cards themselves, the casino can get in 70 hands of Baccarat per hour compared to the normal 45 or 50. A true marvel of casino co-ordination, the whole process looks as efficient as an assembly line when it’s working right.
Minimum bet is $200.
Banking 3 Card Baccarat – It looks like people can bank as many times in a row as they want, provided no one else at the table wants to. Minimum bet is $500.
Blackjack – The surrender option is only offered before the player on first base plays his hand. Minimum bet is $500.
Compared to most Blackjack in Macau, the rules at the Sands are inferior, because 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 0.24% compared to the standard number of 0.16% city wide.
Fan Tan – No other casino in Macau sees action on their Fan Tan tables quite like the Sands. Maybe it’s because their minimums are excellent, with Kwok, Nim and Fan bets only $100, while Nga Tan is $200 and Sheh Sam Hong is $300.
Roulette – Inside/Outside bets start from $50 and $200.
Sands Stud Poker – Although the name is different, Sands Stud Poker is just like normal Caribbean Stud Poker, only with an important side bet variation. Players can now bet up to 5 times the original side bet amount and then are paid in proportion to that wager should they win. Here’s what the pay table looks like:
If you hit a straight flush or royal, however, you’ll have to be content with just taking the normal 10% or 100% win.
In an interesting twist, players can bet the side bet on the Dealer’s hand as well, with all of the same rules still applying.
Please note the side bet wager starts from $50 now instead of the standard $25.
Minimum bet is $500 and the table might only open in the afternoon.
Sic Bo – 10 different Sic Bo bets are available. Minimum bets for Big/Small, Even/Odd are $300, and combination bets are allowed. That is, players can make three separate $100 dollar bets at a time if they want.
Slots – The Sands Macao lost a ton of slots after the pandemic. I’d wager there are no more than 400 of them still remaining, and that might even be too high. The only machines I saw were from 5 cents to 50 cents as well, a far cry from the $100 machines they had a decade ago.
Live Gaming consists of only $100 Baccarat, while just 3 electronic games are on offer: Baccarat ($20), Roulette ($10) and Sic Bo ($20). I also spotted some Craps and Blackjack machines, but they were all out of service. In prior years, minimums were $50 for both games.
Three Card Baccarat – Minimum bet is $500.
Three Card Poker – Like Sands Stud Poker, the Three Card Poker table might only open in the afternoon. Minimum bet is $500 as well.
SANDS MACAO VIP PROGRAM
SANDS MACAO HOTEL
Opening in 2004, the Sands Macao was Las Vegas Sands first foray into the Macau gaming market. Coincidentally it was also the first casino review I ever wrote for the Wizard of Odds, way back in 2010. That marked the beginning of my love affair with Macau that eventually culminated in the website you’re reading now.
I stayed in the Deluxe Suite way back then, which ran $2184 Mops at the time, and that was midweek! Almost a decade on, it does look like I got ripped off, but such is life.
Current prices are a lot more palatable, and include all taxes and service charges.
Sands Macao Hotel Room
Knowing what I know about Macau now, there’s no way I’d choose to stay at the Sands again. First of all, the location is somewhat ridiculous and inconvenient, out by the Ferry Terminal and the Reservoir, far away from the main sites and action around San Ma Lo. Secondly, the hotel is basically just one big casino, with no attempts made to provide the kind of resort experience that’s expected nowadays. To put it simply, the Sands Macao is a place to gamble, not to stay.
Anyway, during my visit, I stayed on the 18th floor, in room number 1826. To call it a suite is very misleading in my opinion since it didn’t have two separate rooms, just one wooden cabinet that divided the room in half, with one side the bedroom and the other the living room.
Granted, the room was comfortable and warmly furnished, and there was a killer view overlooking Fisherman’s Wharf and the South China Sea.
These days though, you’ll probably see nothing but the Harbourview Hotel, which totally sucks.
The bathroom was another highlight as well, nicely done up in marble and fully equipped with a shower and jacuzzi.
All in all, I don’t think anyone could be disappointed with the room, but given the fact that guests aren’t given much of an incentive to stay at the Sands, a discussion of how good it is is pretty pointless.
SANDS MACAO POOL
I like the outdoor setup of the Sands pool on the sixth floor. The only problem might be that it’s too small.
SANDS MACAO SPA
The Sands spa is a little difficult to get to. First you have to make your way to the third floor, walk past the restaurants and through the old high limit Paiza section, to a whole other set of elevators. Take one of them up to the 8th floor and that’s where you’ll find the spa. The spa is pretty good for men because their section comes fully loaded with a fitness center, hot tub, steam room, sauna and cold pool, while women only get access to a shower.
The spa also has a small menu featuring massage, facial care, and beauty services like hair, nail and make-up work. Prices for massage are a little lower than other 5 star joints where 60 minute massage goes for $588 or $688, 90 minute massage $788 to $988 and 120 minute massage all $1188 or $1288. Facials meanwhile go from $88 or $168 while a 30 minute body scrub is $388.
For guests staying in the hotel, in-suite massage is also available by dialing the Paiza Reception at 8983-8890 or 8983-3153.
Spa hours are from 12 pm to 1 am daily.
The Spa is closed until further notice.
SANDS MACAO DINING
With only 5 restaurants in total, the dining options at the Sands pale in comparison to what you get at most large hotel casinos. What’s worse is that I’ve eaten at most of them and haven’t been very impressed.
The Moonlight Noodle House – Located on the first floor, the Moonlight Noodle House is open 24 hours a day. They mostly serve Cantonese food, with most dishes ranging from $62 to $92. Specifically, noodle and rice dishes are $88 t0 $138, noodles in soup $50 to $120 while Cantonese specialties are $88 to $158. Sichuan favourites run $98 to $188, Chinese barbecue $95 to $118 and vegetables $65. Dim sum, finally, consists of 11 choices and costs $45 to $65.
888 Gourmet Palace – Located on the second floor, 888 Gourmet Palace is separated into two parts. The left side offers a day long buffet, with the following prices for adults and children.
Monday to Friday Breakfast Buffet (7 am to 11 am): $148 and $73
Saturday and Sunday Breakfast Buffet: $158 and $78
Lunch Buffet (11:30 am to 2 pm): $218 and $88
Monday to Friday Dinner Buffet (5:30 pm to 10:30 pm): $338 and $168
Saturday and Sunday Dinner Buffet: $368 and $178
Those staying in Sands hotels (Sands Macao, Venetian, Parisian and Sands Cotai) are eligible to buy the Sands Resorts Buffet Pass for $750 (adults) and $379 (children), which enables users to visit 4 buffets in a 24 hour period. I don’t know about you, but that just sounds gross gluttony to me. Personally, if I eat in a buffet, I don’t have to eat again for 36 hours, so I’m not sure how good this deal really is.
Restaurants involved in the promo are Feast and Grand Orbit at Sands Cotai, Golden Peacock and Feast at Venetian, Le Buffet at the Parisian and 888 Buffet at Sands Macao. Le Buffet, Grand Orbit and Golden Peacock are among the better buffets in town, so there are decent options at least.
I’d leave Grand Orbit and Le Buffet for the two dinner buffets, do Golden Peacock at lunch because they only have one then, then give Feast a shot at breakfast.
The right side of 888 Gourmet Palace mostly serves Asian fast food. They have three different counters each specializing in a different fare, be it Shanghai, Macanese, Cantonese, Thai, or Japanese food. Here’s a quick list of prices:
Macau/Portuguese: $45 to $78
Cantonese/Sichuan: $68 to $88
Hong Kong: $48 to $52
Thai: $40 to $88
Vietnamese: $62 to $82
Japanese/Korean: $52 to $158
Teppanyaki: $198 to $888
Back in 2010, I tried a rice and spicy chicken plate which ran $48 at the time. While the food was good, it wasn’t enough, so anyone planning to eat there probably has to order two dishes.
Closed until further notice.
Copa Steakhouse – Located on the third floor, Copa Steakhouse is generally considered the best joint in town to get a steak. I’m down on the place though, with my last visit a double dose of pain and misery. First I had some hardened Hong Kong waitress try to execute a bait and switch on me, before having to deal with the worst filet mignon I’ve ever had in my life. It literally tasted like water, and I’m sure it was either a month old and recently defrosted or just improperly handled from start to finish.
For a review of my horrible meal there, please click here: Copa Steakhouse.
As for the prices, most steaks range from $548 to $728 while it starts to get totally out of hand with some prime Japanese, Australian and American cuts that run $1088 to $2188. Seafood costs $208 to $1198 while other meat favourites like duck, chicken and lamb are $318 to $538. Other things on their menu include appetizers ($185 to $295), soups and salads ($108 to $165) and side vegetables ($75 to $98).
Two and three course set lunches run $268 and $298 while three and four course set dinners are $638 and $698.
Hours daily are from 12:00 pm to 3 pm and from 6 pm to 11 pm.
Golden Court – Located on the third floor, Golden Court is a Cantonese restaurant that was somehow strangely ranked #1 on Trip Advisor a few years ago. Decently priced, appetizers are $88 to $128, poultry $150 to $458, and vegetables $98 to $150. Barbecue meat favourites run $118 to $238, main meat dishes $118 to $658, while rice and noodles are $128 to $218. The most expensive items on the menu are bird’s nest and dried seafood ($250 to $2298) while just plain old wet seafood ($460 to $628) drops the hammer as well.
At lunch they serve a lot of dim sum which mainly costs between $45 and $85.
Golden Court hours are from 12 pm to 3 pm daily and from 6 pm to 10:30 pm. On the weekend, they open an hour earlier for lunch.
Garden 9 – Garden 9 is the latest restaurant to debut at Sands Macao, taking over from the departed Japanese restaurant on the 3rd floor beside Copa Steakhouse.
Serving Shanghai cuisine, their menu isn’t divided into any sections whatsoever. It was just page after page of dish, with most in the $98 to $285 range.
Garden 9 is open from 11:30 am to 2:30 pm and again from 6:00 pm to 10:30 at night.
Back in 2010, the Sands casino was a happening place, full of singing and dancing acts that only the Crazy Lisboa Show at the Grand Lisboa could top. I unfairly criticized them in my original Sands review, before subsequently learning that entertainment like that basically doesn’t exist anywhere in Macau and I should have been extremely grateful for it.
Fast forward a decade later and the big stage behind Xanadu Bar has been empty for years, with no sign of the Glamour Girls, ballroom dancers, or poppy Filipino rock band doing fun covers of Blondie and Wham.
It’s a shame because Macau casinos definitely need more to look at than comatose mainlanders playing Commission Free Baccarat.
THE LAST WORD
With poor dining, shopping, and entertainment options, the Sands Macao has always been what Steve Wynn so succinctly called it, “Sheldon’s box of Baccarat”, a property obsessed with strict hardcore gambling, and nothing else. The kicker is that the casino isn’t even that good anymore, with high $500 limits, no Baccarat or free entertainment, and their Three Card Poker and Caribbean Stud Poker tables maybe only open on weekends.
Perhaps the one notable game on offer is the $200 Fan Tan (Nga Tan bet). That’s the lowest in town and a pretty good wager to make, carrying a low house edge of 1.25%.
As for the hotel, those are the exit doors and exactly where you should be running.
SANDS MACAO LOCATION
The Sands is situated directly opposite Fisherman’s Wharf, about a 5 to 8 minute walk away from the Ferry Terminal.