If it’s not Vegas, it must be … Macau? This tiny Chinese peninsula 37 miles southwest of Hong Kong, which includes the city of the same name, surpassed the gaming revenue of the Las Vegas Strip in 2006 and saw the opening August 28 of The Venetian Macao, billed as the world’s biggest casino.
Expanding on the successful excesses of its sister property, The Venetian, and other Las Vegas resorts, The Venetian Macao features replicas of St. Mark’s Square, the Grand Canal (complete with gondola rides), and two additional canals (the original Venetian has only one), as well as plenty of gold leaf and marble. All of the resort’s 3,000 suites are more than 750 square feet in area; the gaming area features 1,150 gaming tables and enough space for 7,000 slot machines. The development also has space for 350 shops and features a 1,800-seat conference center, a 15,000-seat stadium, and about one million square feet of meeting and exhibit space. At 10.5 million square feet, the resort is twice the size of the Las Vegas original and is touted by its developers as being the largest building in Asia.
Analysts say that the $2.4 billion project, headed by Las Vegas Sands Chairman Sheldon Adelson, could double Macau’s gaming income to $13.7 billion by 2010, according to a report in USA Today.
The Venetian is the first casino to open on Macao’s Cotai Strip, a 1.5-square-mile area created by filling in the space between the two small islands of Taipa and Coloane. The Cotai Strip was first envisioned as a Las Vegas–style development in 2002; more than a dozen additional projects are planned for the area, and developers are watching The Venetian closely.
Adelson’s first Macau casino, the Sands Macao, opened in May 2004. Based on ishis success with that project, Adelson says he expects to recoup his investment in the Venetian within three to five years, according to Reuters Limited. The Las Vegas Sands group is reportedly investing a total of $12 billion in the Cotai Strip.
The Chinese spend billions on gambling, but the only place it is legal in the country is Macau, which draws some 20 million visitors each year. Local officials and other casino operators hope the Strip development will boost the region’s reputation and encourage gamblers to stay overnight and spend more money, according to multiple news reports. But some analysts warn that a glut of development could cut into profits. Wynn Resorts, a strong competitor of Adelson’s, seems to be heeding those warnings. Its planned expansion this year of gaming space at Wynn Macau was trimmed from 123,000 square feet to just 25,000 square feet.