Opening of Venetian Macao Resort launches “Cotai Strip” casinos

27 August 2007

Macau, China, 27 Aug – The launch this week of the world’s alregst casino at the Venetian Macao-Resort-Hotel in Cotai, a landfill arae between the islands of Coloane and Taipa, is the launch of casinos in the area hoped to be seen as Macau’s Strip.

In the long term, Cotai, the Asian version of the Las Vegas Strip, will include Macau Dreams, a joint-venture of Australia’s Publishing & Broadcasting (PBL) and Melco International Development Limited (Melco), currently headed by Lawrence Ho, son of gaming magnate Stanley Ho, the Cotai Mega Resort owned by Galaxy Resorts, and Macau Studio City.

Wynn Resorts, which already has a hotel-casino on the Macau peninsula, also plans to build casinos on land it owns in the same area.

The opening of the Venetian Macao is also aimed at changing the usual tourist demand in Macau, with William Weidner, chairman of the Las Vegas Sands Corp., having recently said that the casino would contribute to transforming Macau from being a day trip destination for tourists into an “elegant destination.”

“The Venetian is the first big step in making Macau change from a day trip destination focused essentially on the Hong Kong and Guangdong province markets into a multifaceted and international destination for several days,” Weidner said.

The Venetian Macao, the second property of the Las Vegas Sands Corp. in Macau after in 2004 it opened Sands Macau, is part of a complex which, when it is concluded in 2009, will represent an investment of over US$12 billion and provide 20,000 hotel rooms in chains such as the Sheraton, Shangri-la, Hilton, Conrad, Traders and Raffles.

A Four Seasons Hotel with 400 rooms is currently under construction and is due to be concluded in the first quarter of 2008.

Unveiled as the second largest building in the world and the largest in Asia, the Venetian Macao, with an area of 976,000 meters, has 3,000 suites, around =-seat auditorium, a multifunctional room for 15,000 people and 93,000 square meters of retail space, with 350 world renowned stores.

The Venetian Macao, which cost US$2.4 billion, will also include teh world’s largest casino, which will have 871 gaming tables and 3,400 slot machines and, once finished, the Las Vegas Sands Corp. complex in Cotai will have a total fo 2,900 gaming tables and 16,000 slot machines.

Some analysts are reserving judgment in order to see if the Las Vegas style casino, with entertainment, restaurants, retail and hotels will work in macau, a market which ahs been dominated by gamblers whose only aim is to gamble and usually stay for less than a day.

According to Weidner 44 large conventions have already been booked over the next two years, with this business occupying two thirds of rooms, while the other third will be occupied by tourists or big gamblers.

Macau’s big transformation began when the government of Edmund Ho decided in 2002 to bring an end to the gambling monopoly, which had been held by Stanley HJO since 1962, and when the Chinese mainland authorities decided to start issuing individual exit visas.

In 1999, teh final year of Portuguese adminsitartion of the territory, Macau had 7.4 million visitors, in teh following year this had risen to 9.1 million, and rose significantly from 2004 onwards, reaching a total of 21.9 million in 2006, with projections of 25 million this year.

Alongside wealthy visitors, following the high levels of economic growth of mainland China, the winners of three concessions and teh holders of three sub-concessions (each concession had an authorized sub-concession) quickly began investing in the new market.

Thus, from 11 casinos in 1999 there are now 26 casinos, and from a total of 306 gaming tables and over 8,200 slot machines and gross revenues of a little over US$1.622 billion, revenues rose to US$7.4 billion in 2006, surpassing Las Vegas as the world gambling capital for the first time.

The Macau government charges a direct tax of 35 percent on gross revenues and around 4 percent in indirect taxes, which netted the territory’s treasury 19.7 billion patacas in 2006, and an expected total of 20.2 billion patacas this year.

Between January and July 2007, gross gaming and gambling revenues totaled 44.5 billion patacas (US$5.562 billion), which was a year on year rise of 46 percent.

With these funds, the Macau goevrnment will continue to invest in teh territory’s infrastructure, namely the predicted need to expand its international airport, which is already close to its passenger limit, and a light railway to deal with traffic problems in the region.

In order to attract customers to the casino-hotel, the Las Vegas Sands Corp. has invested in a land, sea and air transport system.

In order to travel there, there are 15 vessels available with a capacity fo 400 passengers each for routes from and to Hong Kong and the south of mainland China as well as six aircraft that have been acquired to transport high stakes gamblers and a fleet of 100 buses in Macau to provide transport from and to land border areas. (macauhub)