Est.: Aug. 28, 2007
Last update: March 20, 2011Review by James K. • March 20, 2011
Starworld Hotel has been Galaxy's flagship property in Macau since it opened in 2006. A look at the numbers though reveals that it has not performed well in that capacity the past four years, with Galaxy only owning 5% of Macau's Mass Revenue Share. What that basically means is that when casual players go to Macau to gamble for a day or two, they're not going to Starworld. They're choosing the Venetian, the Wynn, or even MGM instead. 5% is also shockingly low when you consider Galaxy has five casinos in total, while the other four minor concessionaires only have 1, 2, or 3.
Perhaps to that end Galaxy is set to open the massive twin tower Galaxy Macau hotel complex on the Cotai strip around April this year. Within twelve months I expect that 5% Mass Revenue Share to double at least, provided Galaxy Macau is as good as it's expected to be.
Starworld is square in the middle of the action on the Avenue D'Amizade strip. The President is right across the street while the Wynn is to its left. Directly behind it is an SJM property, L'Arc.
I have to admit that my first impression of the Starworld Casino wasn't very good. For the purpose of writing this review I went there to case the casino floor and its games, to see what rules they have as well as get an idea of their minimum bets. Since Starworld isn't that big, I also walked around a couple times counting the tables to get an idea of their number. No matter which place I'm in, I always try to do this work discreetly, so as not to bring any unnecessary attention upon myself.
I must not have done a very good job of it that day in Starworld because as I was resting in the lounge section on the third floor, one of their security staff walked over and wanted to know what my business was in the casino. His tone off the bat was very confrontational which I didn't appreciate since I was doing nothing wrong. I told him that I was just looking around. He then replied that I was there counting tables. Riiiiight. Counting tables. Not cards mind you, but tables. With the advent of the shuffle machines in Blackjack, I guess security guys in casinos have nothing better to do than hassle guys counting tables because no one counts cards anymore. Quick note to you Fritz (that was his name) and to the Starworld: no one ever broke a casino bank because they knew how many tables it had. Nobody ever clocked a roulette wheel by writing a review. I think facts like table numbers should be a matter of public record, and not some closely guarded secret. I mean, what's there to hide? I do find it interesting that Starworld is the only place in Macau I've been to that posts the rules of the casino at each entrance, including all the instances that result in instant dismissal from the casino. For some reason, their security seems to be the tightest.
Anyway, back to Mr. Fritz and I in the third floor lounge. I denied I was counting tables by saying there were too many to count, then I stared him down. I fed him a nasty glare that must have lasted a good ten seconds. After that he said okay and walked away. Meanwhile I thought of all the nasty things I'd write about their casino as my revenge.
Only, in good faith I can't do it. Apart from some overzealous security staff, there's not much not to like about the Starworld casino. It's alive in ways that most other casinos in Macau aren't. I don't know why that is exactly. Maybe it's because they have tall beautiful women on the floor doing nothing but looking hot. I'm serious. I asked them what their job was and they said that was it. Maybe it's because their floor waitresses work double time, actively searching gamers out to see what drinks they want, all the while smiling politely and looking pretty good themselves. Maybe it's because the music they play in the background is poppy, uptempo stuff. Maybe it's because of the huge LED TV they have on one end of the casino that always gives you something to look at. Maybe it's because of all the lights. Maybe it's because there always seems to be a ton of people in it. Whatever the reason is, it's one fun casino.
Gaming at the Starworld is found on three floors: the first, third, and tenth. The first floor is by far the largest which is where the bulk of their slots and tables are found. 94 tables populate this area but they consist of only four games: blackjack, baccarat, Caribbean Stud, and sic bo. Indeed this limited game selection is perhaps Starworld's biggest weakness. Low table minimums are hard to find as well, with most games $300 and up. Slots buck the trend however, with machines topping out at $5 and most under a dollar. In total, there are around 200 slot machines on the first floor.
The third floor, meanwhile, is notable for its ten table poker room. Blinds begin at $10/$25 and max out at $200/$400. Limit Hold 'Em is also available, but isn't very popular among players, and the staff couldn't even tell me what the limit was. They were in agreement, however, that no raise in a $10/$25 game could exceed $125 or $150. For players who aren't familiar with Texas Hold 'Em, the Starworld offers a brief training session explaining the rules of the game and how it's played. I took part in it just to see what it was about but found it only mildly useful. If I didn't already know how to play I'm not sure I could pick it up that fast based on their instruction. What I found most hilarious was that after only two mock hands, they asked me if I wanted to join a real game!
The tenth floor Jinmen club is a Starworld VIP Baccarat club. Details are sketchy though as to what goes on up there behind closed doors because five or six of its rooms are labelled "private salons" and thus off limits to people like me. In one public area though, I was able to see 13 Baccarat tables with minimums ranging from $1,000 to $3,000, as well as 12 slot machines in another room at $1 and $5. One lonely roulette wheel sat unused and ignored.
Unless otherwise indicated, normal Macau rules and payouts apply to all games.
Player Card — Galaxy Privilege Club has three types of player card: Gold, Platinum and Black. Cards can be used in Starworld and in the soon to opened massive Galaxy hotel on the Cotai strip. Point accumulation is based on the following rate: 1 point per hour on $100 tables, and increases proportionately as the table minimum increases. So then a $200 table would earn 2 points, a $500 table 5 points, a $1,000 table 10 points per hour and so on. Slot players meanwhile earn 1 point for every $400 bet. Points can also be banked by making cash payments in the hotel or at F&B outlets, with every $100 HKD spent resulting in a point.
The benefits given on all three cards are pretty similar except Gold members are not eligible for discounts related to the Alliance Asian Affinity program, while Platinum and Black members are. Basically the AAA program is one big travel comp, with members getting reduced room rates in certain international hotel chains as well as deals on air tickets and other travel packages.
Black members meanwhile get the run of the Deluxe Membership Priviliges. Only they qualify for such things as priority service in hotels and free upgrades.
Strangely enough all three card holders are eligible for complimentary hotel rooms, though it isn't specified how many points are needed or how often one has to play. Discounts in the hotel bars and restaurants are as follows: 10% for Gold, 15% for Platinum and 20% for Black.
A nice catalogue of gifts is available when members want to redeem their points. Apple devices dominate the Lifestyle Gadget section with plenty of IPhones, IPods and Mac computers. Other goods include premium whisky, pens, wallets and gold jewellery. Surprisingly a bottle of John Walker is the most expensive product requiring 25,000 points. If it were me, I'd be all over the 4 GB IPhone which is listed at 9,788 points, as my cell phone is currently being held together by Scotch tape and a prayer.
In addition to the player card, Starworld currently has four major promotions:
StarWorld Sign Up Bonanza — At sign up, every new Galaxy member receives a pack of Galaxy playing cards. After accumulating one point, a ticket with their name on it is entered into a draw held nightly at 6 p.m.. Top prizes are Apple products like IPhones and IPads. Finally, when five points are accumulated, members are given a $50 table bonus. Keep in mind these offers are only available on the first day you receive your card.
Starworld Slot Daily Surprise — 33 slot winners daily. Winners chosen randomly while playing slot machines. Top prize is a $1,000 slot bonus.
Hit the Jackpot — For every five points earned, members receive a ticket that will be entered into three draws: a weekly draw, monthly draw, and grand draw. The grand draw will take place the first Saturday after Galaxy Macau opens. Main prizes for all three draws are all very desirable. Weekly draw winners take home $50,000 HKD while monthly draw winners score $68,000 HKD. Grand draw winners, as expected, make out best receiving a $188,000 HKD cash prize.
Daily Points Earned Offer — Starworld players are eligible for certain prizes based on daily point accumulation. A $100 restaurant coupon requires 10 points. 50 points scores an economy class boat ticket while at 100 points, members ride first class. A luxury room at the Starworld needs 200 points. At 300 and 500 points respectively the reward is a $500 and $1000 table or slot bonus.
Starworld hotel is often sold out well in advance on weekends due to their partnership with several junkets and travel agencies. With 501 rooms, however, staying midweek isn't usually a problem. Current rates are as follows:
All prices include tax and service charges.
The Starworld's pool is located outside on the 17th floor. Both the pool and deck are a little small and the views from the 17th floor don't reveal a very pretty part of Macau. Worst of all, the pool is unheated. The small Jacuzzi positioned beside it is though, giving hope to winter guests who still want to have a go of it outside. Pool hours are from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m..
Eastern cuisine reigns supreme at Starworld with only one restaurant doing Western food. Prices for the most part aren't high, outside of the exorbirantly priced but very beautiful Japanese restaurant.
Sensations — Located in the first floor gaming area by the northeastern elevators. Strictly Chinese fare there's plenty of rice, meat and vegetables. Most things on the menu are from $52 to $78. I had the displeasure of eating there one night at around 10:30. I tried the Hainan chicken rice meal, which came with soup and vegetables, for $78. Both the chicken and rice servings weren't enough. I eat the same thing in my restaurant outside where I get double the helping for half the price. I probably paid 50 patacas too many.
Laurel — Laurel does Cantonese dishes at decent prices with most meals under $100. Located on the 2nd floor.
Inagiku — This restaurant is Starworld's most stylish and definitely its most expensive. Set meals start from $500 up. Many other main dishes are over $150. For two people to eat well here, you'd probably be looking at a bill starting from $600 at least. On the 5th floor. Opens at 6 pm.
Jade Garden — BIG menu at Jade Garden with prices running the gamut. Many dishes are quite reasonably priced under $100 but quite a few others run into the $1000's. Does food in Shanghai style with good seafood and meat selection.
Temptations — Starworld's only Western restaurant, Temptations has a dinner buffet for $235 which was sold out when I was there. Other things on their a la carte menu mostly go for $100 to $200. On the 16th floor.
Pastry Boutique — Located beside Temptations, Pastry Boutique sells all manners of pastries and chocolates, as well as cake and doughnuts. Prices start from $10 for small finger treats and go all the way up to $150 for boxes of chocolate.
The Starworld has no spa centre, but men and women do have saunas in their changing rooms on the 17th floor.
Its fitness centre, located beside the pool, is barely adequate. Mostly composed of cardio machines and free weights it's too small to be taken seriously. It does have a couple weight machines though that do work back and legs.
The best part about the gym and the pool is the staff working the desk. They were very friendly and willing to answer any questions.
Starworld entertainment consists of music acts in the Whisky Bar and dancing shows in the lobby.
Rocky Rider Band is the house band at the Whisky Bar playing daily from 8 p.m. to 2 a.m. Monday to Thursday and an hour later Friday and Saturday. I checked out their act and found it consists mostly of soft Chinese pop rock and love songs. In between their set though the real party starts when DJ Mike takes over. A hard core house man at heart he'll read the vibe on the floor and play whatever suits the crowd, whether it be retro, funk, 70's or some seriously bitching underground beats. He wants it to be known though, he's old school. He scratches but doesn't jaggle. (Whatever that means. He laid it out for me, what he did and what he didn't, but I had no idea what he was talking about. House, for me, is something you live in. When it comes to music man, I listen to the Doors.) Anyway the entertainment at Whisky Bar should suit all comers. DJ Mike told me he ain't no beginning DJ. His arsenal is stacked and racked.
Dancing shows in the lobby, meanwhile, run everyday from 1 pm to 8 pm. Performers are diverse, with everything from foreign beauties to Russian belly dancers to Thai Lady Boys. All uptempo stuff, they keep the Starworld lobby alive and kicking, sending out fun vibes that bounce upwards throughout the entire property.
Whisky Bar — Show me the way to the next Whisky bar, oh don't ask, oh don't why.... (Hey, I told you I like the Doors.) Whisky Bar is a good sized bar for a Macau hotel with more than 20 tables and a performance stage. Prices are fairly standard with beers starting at $35 and premium drinks going for $40 to $70. There's also nice views of the Amizade strip.
Most nights the Whisky Bar has a good crowd since the bar at MGM closed down, forcing their regulars to seek new pastures, with most of them settling in at Starworld.
Their current special is all you can drink for $128 from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m.. That's a deal I would have had them rethinking ten years ago as a young man, but one in which I can barely put a dent in today. Seriously, two beers now and I'm hungover, whereas back in the day, I got up unfazed and kept going. Sweet Lord, did I really used to drink in the shower?
Lobby Lounge — Lobby Lounge, made up of 5 tables, is to the right of the main entrance doors. It serves beers and other drinks with prices basically the same as the Whisky Bar. There's also a small food menu serving sandwiches and dessert for $48 to $65 and $25 to $38 respectively.
While there may be a couple of shops here and there on Starworld's lower floors, there's no real central section or shopping arcade.
Starworld charges similar rates to MGM and Wynn but probably isn't justified in doing so. The hotel facilities just don't cut it with the outdoor pool unheated and the fitness and spa amenities sorely lacking. That coupled with the absence of any real shopping probably means that Starworld is overpriced by about 300 or 400 patacas. Across the street at the Landmark, for example, you can find better facilities and a lot more shopping for three quarters of the cost.
Gaming on the other hand is another story. If the selection of games at Starworld suits you, then I wouldn't hesitate in calling it one of the best casinos in Macau. Quite simply, what the Starworld does best is mix entertainment with gaming and good fun. I know dancing shows in the lobby don't sound like much, but for Macau, trust me, it's something. Large casinos like the Grand starworld and Sands for example, basically only do dancing shows as their entertainment but they do them in the casino. And by doing it there the impact of the show gets lost. The floor area is too big and with most people busy gaming or doing whatever the performance just becomes background noise. At Starworld though, its done in the lobby in a much smaller venue so the first thing you feel after you walk in is the loud buzz of the show. You think alright, Starworld is happening, things are going on. And that mood carries over onto the casino floor with its tall hot women and to the bar upstairs on the 17th floor that's usually full of people.
In a word, I give full credit to Starworld and its casino. More places in Macau need to pick up on their vibe and turn the fat Baccarat whales OUT.