Is Havana the Next Macau?

With the U.S.-Cuba embargo at an end, the gaming industry may be looking at the island as a potential casino destination. In the pre-Castro era, Havana was known as an international gaming capital.

United States reopens embassy

As anyone who has ever watched The Godfather movies knows, in pre-Castro Cuba, under President Fulgencio Batista, the island off the coast of Florida was an international gaming destination.

With the end of the U.S. embargo, some industry analysts are speculating that Cuba could once again become a global gaming capital. According to, Cuba “is looking a lot like Macau” to a leading Chinese developer. I-Fei Chang, CEO of U.S. operations for China’s largest real estate developer, Greenland Group, appreciates the ease of travel between the U.S. southern coast and Cuba.

“It’s a very short travel from here by ferry to Cuba,” Chang said. “I can foresee some business model like from Hong Kong … a one-hour ferry to Macau, to build this Macau to be the casino and resort business.”

The region is already attracting interest from gaming developers. In the Bahamas, less than 200 miles from the Florida coast, Chinese investors are involved in the $3.5 billion Baha Mar casino resort project, which filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in June. With China’s strong ties to Cuba, investment there also may make sense for both countries.

“If Miami can continue its own investment to really build this great city to be a gateway city, not just the South Wall Street, I believe we have the opportunity to bring in more investors from Asia,” said Chang. She was in Miami to address the National Association of Real Estate Editors in June, just before the United States announced the reestablishment of diplomatic relations with Cuba, along with plans to reopen an embassy.

The state-owned Greenland Group has more than $57 billion in assets worldwide, according to a Knight Frank report. In China, the company is helping to develop the world’s third, fourth and seventh tallest buildings, according to