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Best of Howard Stutz

Gaming Guru

Howard Stutz
 

Hotel Chains Gamble on Macau

18 March 2005

LAS VEGAS -- Several worldwide hotel chains will join Las Vegas Sands Corp. in developing seven hotel-casinos on the Cotai Strip region of Macau, investing up to $6 billion in the expanding tourism market's initial phase.

Las Vegas Sands officials, including Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Sheldon Adelson, were joined by representatives of the hotel companies and other investors in announcing the plans to an audience of Asian journalists.

The news conference took place at 11 a.m. today at the Sands Macau, or 7 p.m. Thursday in Las Vegas.

World-recognized hotel companies -- Dorsett Hotel Group, Four Seasons Hotels, Hilton Hotels, InterContinental Hotels, Regal Hotels, Marriott International and Starwood Hotel and Resorts Worldwide -- will build and operate six 1,500-room hotels on the Cotai Strip, an area of reclaimed land a few miles from the main stretch of Macau, situated between the islands of Taipa and Coloane and bordered by the South China Sea.

Las Vegas Sands is building the $1.8 billion Venetian Macau, which will open with 1,500 rooms and serve as the anchor of the Cotai Strip.

The hotel chains will lease space inside the properties to Las Vegas Sands, which will operate a casino and showroom inside each resort.

The initial Cotai development is expected to open in 2007 with 10,000 hotel rooms, meeting and convention facilities and several theaters.

Adelson described the Cotai Strip as Asia's Las Vegas, saying the project is the single- largest mixed-use tourism development ever built at one time.

"By assembling a critical mass of world-class hotel brands, this development will reposition Macau as an international tourist and convention and exhibition destination," Adelson said in a statement. "Thanks to the efforts of the assembled group of world-renowned hotel brands and regional and local investors, and especially the Macau government, the vision of the Cotai Strip is clearly taking shape."

Susquehanna Financial Group gaming analyst Eric Hausler, in Macau for the announcement, said the Cotai Strip project was "one of the more bold and ambitious projects undertaken in gaming as the vision contemplates the creation of a Las Vegas Strip-like cluster of destination resorts."

Hausler added that the development does contain some operational risks.

Macau is in a region that can be accessed by 3 billion people within a five-hour plane ride.

Mainland China is supporting several infrastructure improvements to help bring people to the region, including a new ferry terminal and airport that is expected to open in 2007; an 18-mile bridge connecting Hong Kong, Zhuhai and Macau that could open by 2011; and a proposed light-rail system that is to open in 2009.

The hotel operators represent some of the more recognized brands, including Sheraton, Conrad and Holiday Inn. It's unclear which names will be featured on the Cotai Strip.

"Never have so many recognizable brands assembled in one place at one time to create a new international tourism destination almost overnight," Las Vegas Sands President Bill Weidner said. "It took 75 years for Las Vegas to emerge as an international destination. Our intention is to replicate that feat in less than three years, and Las Vegas Sands is working closely with all of the hotel companies and investors to conclude their arrangements and realize this vision."

The Venetian Macau will occupy 10.5 million square feet of space upon completion and will include 3,000 hotel suites, a 546,000-square-foot casino, 1 million square feet of meeting and exhibition space, a 2,000-seat showroom, 850,000 square feet of retail mall space, and a 15,000-seat arena.