"Las Vegas is casino-centric. It needs to be customer-centric," says Sheldon Adelson, chairman of the board, The Venetian Resort-Hotel. "We are the only convention-based hotel in Las Vegas."

Not that the Venetian is turning away casino-only guests. It's just that Adelson designed the Venetian--with its 3,036 guest rooms (all 700-square-foot, two-level suites) and the 1.7 million square feet of meeting and convention space at The Venetian and the adjacent Sands Expo Center--with meetings in mind.

Adelson is not new to success. He bought Comdex in 1969 and sold it in 1992 for nearly $900 million, but not before building the Sands Expo Center to house what would become the world's largest computer show.

Adelson imploded the neighboring Sands Hotel, which, despite its Rat Pack legend, wasn't big enough to support the huge shows he hoped to draw to the Expo Center.

He recognized early on that smaller confabs grew up around large shows, and that high-tech professionals needed to "carry their offices with them" while on the road.

The Venetian, which opened in May 1999, while amazingly true to its Renaissance Venice theme, is not at all cheesy. It includes 65 upscale shops surrounding the Grand Canal, complete with functional gondolas and singing gondoliers. (It's nearly impossible to visit The Venetian and not come back with some Murano glass.)

Guest programs can also be built around visits to the property's 100,000-square-foot Canyon Ranch SpaClub, which offers a 40-foot rock climbing wall and more than 100 spa treatments. Canyon Ranch chose the Venetian to premier its SpaClub concept, which features a complete fitness facility with classes; a wellness center with physicians, nutritionists and educators; and spa cuisine.

For those not-quite-so-healthful meals, The Venetian has 14 other restaurants--no slackers here--with such signature establishments as Wolfgang Puck's Postrio and Larry Mindel (of Il Fornaio's) Canaletto.

On With the Show Beaming over a London Mail quote calling the Venetian "one of the 10 grandest hotels in the world," Adelson ate with a guest last December in a makeshift conference room cum office in the bowels of the Sands Expo Center.

The office's walls were covered with blueprints of The Venetian's Phase Two, scheduled for completion in 2001. With another 3,000 rooms, the Venetian will be the largest hotel in the world.

Adelson says that the Venetian's att-

raction also comes from its competitive pricing. It's not unusual to get a $149 group room rate, which probably peaks at $229.

"We approached the design of the hotel as if it were a city," Adelson says, "with the meeting or event as its heart."

A Good Bet for Meeting Attendees The Venetian caters to business and convention travelers, not casino clientele, because: * Most of the 15 restaurants are operated by the owner or chef, not by the hotel. The onus falls on the chef or owner to make the establishment financially successful because his reputation on the line.

* All guest rooms feature parlor-like design in a two-level suite, allowing business meetings to take place away from the bedroom.

* All guest rooms offer a minibar in each suite (for entertaining), fax machines, safes, and three telephones with dual lines and data port access.