Macau's Secretary for Economy and Finance, Francis Tam Pak-yuen, ended a piece of history yesterday with the announcement of the successful bids to run casinos in the enclave. And as one era ends, so another begins. After 40 years of enjoying a monopoly, Stanley Ho Hung-sun will now face competitors from overseas. The changes in the approach to the gaming industry that will result are likely to transform Macau radically. Two of yesterday's successful bidders - Mr Ho and Stephen Wynn - were widely predicted; the third - Galaxy Casino - was not. What was certainly expected was the injection of some Las Vegas-style sophistication into Macau's casino business. This is the ambition of Chief Executive Edmund Ho Hau-wah. His stated aim is to give Macau what will amount to a multi-billion-dollar facelift, one that will change the widely held image of Macau's gambling industry from seedy to sophisticated. It is a grand vision. But, with gaming generating some 35 per cent of Macau's gross domestic product and no realistic prospect of an alternative revenue generator on such a scale, modernisation of the business is vital. Another heavily weighted reason for change is the increasing competition from the glamorous allure to high-rollers of Las Vegas and Australia's Gold Coast. As yet, it is unclear precisely how the billions of dollars of new investment will be spent, but they will certainly be aimed at widening the gambling industry's appeal to include family-style attractions and popular entertainment, featuring international stars as well as world-class sporting events. While gambling in Macau is unlikely to be able to shed its somewhat functional image in the near future, the prospects opened up by allowing international players into the market are huge. And as the number of people on the mainland rich enough to be able to participate in casino gambling grows, Macau looks set to be on the verge of reinventing itself in a way that will prove to be as significant for its people as the handover was.