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LV Sands executive touts Venetian Macau

17 August 2007

LAS VEGAS, Nevada -- The opening of the $2.4 billion Venetian Macau this month will encapsulate a 10-year period in the history of the Strip in one swoop, Las Vegas Sands Corp. President Bill Weidner said Thursday.

The 3,000-room hotel-casino opens Aug. 28, bringing to the booming Chinese casino enclave of Macau much of what Las Vegas offers in an 11 million-square-foot complex.

Weidner also said during a conference call that Las Vegas Sands has held discussions with the Massachusetts governor and Legislature about opening a casino as the U.S. state explores legalizing gambling.

Sheldon Adelson, the company's chairman, has "deep relationships there and yes, he's in the mix," Weidner said.

During the 1990s building boom, the Strip added large-scale convention centers (Sands Expo and Convention Center), upscale dining (restaurants operated by world renown celebrity chefs), massive amounts of retail offerings (Forum Shops at Caesars), large hotel suites (The Venetian and others), a sports arena (MGM Grand Garden) and several different Cirque du Soleil shows. Weidner said the Venetian Macau will contain all these amenities.

"From 1989 to 1999, that decade was a period of innovation for Las Vegas," Weidner said. "You take Macau. On the day we open, we'll have all that Las Vegas has grown to offer in one place under one roof. This will greatly transform Macau."

The Venetian Macau will open with a 1.2 million-square-foot convention center, a 1 million-square-foot shopping mall, upscale dining and a 15,000-seat sports arena, in addition to 3,000 hotel suites and a 500,000-square-foot casino.

A Cirque du Soleil-produced show is scheduled to open at the resort next spring.

"How the Venetian Macau affects the region and Asia is no overstatement," Weidner said, saying the Venetian Macau will help transform the habits of the Asian gambling public from single-day travelers to multiple-night visitors. "This is an historic event."

Weidner said more than 1,000 media members, predominantly from Asia, have received credentials to cover the opening. He said interest in the casino opening extends outside of China, where countries such as Japan, Thailand, Korea and Vietnam are exploring adding casinos or expanding their current gambling initiatives.

Interest is also strong in Singapore, where Las Vegas Sands is building the $3.6 billion Marina Bay Sands, expected to open in 2009.

The Venetian Macau will be the first resort to open on the Cotai Strip, away the downtown Macau casino market where Las Vegas Sands operates the Sands Macau and Wynn Resorts Ltd. owns the Wynn Macau. MGM Mirage will open the $1.1 billion MGM Grand Macau next to the Wynn later this year.

Las Vegas Sands' efforts on the Cotai Strip is expected to be completed in the next decade with the construction of nine resorts encompassing 20,000 hotel rooms, more than 3 million square feet of retail space and more the 2.5 million square feet of convention space.

Weidner said a 450-room Four Seasons is expected to open next to the Venetian early next year while three other hotel brands, Sheraton, Shangri-La and St. Regis, will open by year's end, bringing 6,000 rooms. Four other resorts are scheduled to open in 2009.

"In a three-year period, we will basically duplicate the critical mass of the center of the Las Vegas Strip," Weidner said.

Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick said he is considering allowing casinos in an effort to tax some of the millions of dollars gambled annually by Massachusetts residents in neighboring Connecticut. The Mashpee Wampanoag tribe has proposed a casino in Middleborough.

Adelson still maintains a home in the Boston area and is active in Massachusetts charities.

"It's just a natural discussion for him to be having," Weidner said. "Most definitely, we want to be in the mix and we want to do it better and more interestingly than anyone else."

Bloomberg News contributed to this report.