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Howard Stutz

Venetian Macau will open on Aug. 28

14 June 2007

LAS VEGAS, Nevada -- The $2.4 billion Venetian Macau, the Chinese gaming enclave's largest hotel-casino, will open Aug. 28 after a more than two-year building process, Las Vegas Sands Corp. said Wednesday.

The Venetian Macau, located in the Cotai Strip area about 10 minutes south of downtown Macau, is styled after the company's Strip resort of the same name that was built in the image of Venice, Italy. The Chinese version, however, is vastly larger with a 550,000-square-foot casino that is almost five times the size of the Las Vegas property's casino.

In addition to 3,000 hotel rooms, the Venetian Macau will have 1.2 million square feet of meeting space and 1 million square feet of retail with 350 stores.

More than 16,000 workers will be employed at the hotel-casino, almost four times the number of employees on the company's Las Vegas payroll. The Macau work force is reflective of the size of the property and the increased need for dealers to staff the casino's 1,150 gaming tables, almost seven times the number of table games offered at The Venetian on the Strip.

Las Vegas Sands President Bill Weidner said The Venetian Macau is targeting a different audience than the Sands Macau, the company's original Chinese gaming property near the downtown Macau waterfront. The Venetian is seeking overnight visitors seeking a Las Vegas-style resort experience while the Sands Macau caters to day-trip gamblers.

"The Venetian is an entirely new product, and of course, there will be some overlap initially," Weidner said. "But the Sands was built to service the day-trip customers while The Venetian was built for customers who come from farther away."

Company officials, however, aren't concerned that recent travel restrictions the Chinese government placed on visitation to Macau will affect the resort's opening or operations at the Sands Macau.

Weidner said it seems the government is trying to reduce the effect that mass visitation is having on Macau's heavily taxed infrastructure.

"One of the stated purposes was to not clog the gates with lower-quality players," Weidner said. "As we get into the summer months, it's pretty clear they want to control the chaos at the border. We expect the situation to become more clarified when a new ferry terminal opens in the fall."

The restrictive visa requirements are directed toward Macau visitors from Guangdong province. Weidner said the changes haven't hurt the Sands Macau, which relies on single-day gamblers.

Last week, Wynn Resorts Ltd. announced that the restrictions were one reason the company would delay expansion projects at the Wynn Macau.

"I think it's a real mistake for any of us to slow down what we're developing," Weidner said. "This is just a blip on the radar and we're moving full speed ahead with our building plans."

The Venetian Macau will be the first of nine planned resorts on the Cotai Strip. When completed in the next decade, the Cotai Strip will have more than 20,000 hotel rooms, more than 3 million square feet of retail space, and more than 2.5 million square feet of convention facilities.

Las Vegas Sands is building and will own each of the Cotai Strip properties. The company will operate the gaming aspects while the hotels will be operated by such brands as Four Seasons, Sheraton, St. Regis, Shangri-La, Traders, Conrad, Fairmont, Holiday Inn and Intercontinental.

Weidner said it was easier to build a hotel-casino the size of The Venetian in China rather than the United States because a builder is allowed to deploy more construction crews than on American job sites. The biggest challenge was filling the property's 16,000 positions, some of which are still open.

Preference in hiring was given to Macau residents, but government programs are in place to bring in workers from Hong Kong, mainland China and the Philippines. Weidner said the Sands Macau was used as a training ground for dealers.

"We're carrying hundreds of trained workers already," Weidner said. "We did not want to open the Venetian (Macau) without a core of experienced staff."

The Venetian Macau's 1,800-seat Cirque du Soleil theater is not expected to open for several months. About two-thirds of the retail stores will also not open right away.

However, the hotel will have some early guests. A month before the hotel officially opens, England's Manchester United soccer team and a Chinese national team will play a match in Macau, and the players and team staff will stay at the property.