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Jeff Simpson

Jeff Simpson Reflects on Eye-Opening Journey to Magical Land of Macau

11 September 2006

ACAU -- I wanted to share a few thoughts from my visit to Macau.

Last year the Sun sent our tourism reporter Richard N. Velotta to Macau (and Beijing and Singapore) and Richard wrote a top-notch series of stories that helped Sun readers understand the power of the Chinese economy and its tourism impact on Las Vegas, the vibrancy of Macau casinos and the gaming potential of Singapore.

I had long ago asked Richard to prepare to travel again to Macau when the $1.2 billion Wynn Macau opened. Not only did Sun Managing Editor Michael Kelley approve Richard's second visit to Asia in a year, he asked me to go as well.

Macau is having and will continue to have a big impact on the worldwide casino business and on Las Vegas-based resort operators.

When Wynn Macau opened Tuesday, there were dozens of journalists on hand. Most were from Hong Kong and Macau. Asia-based reporters from the Associated Press, Reuters and the Wall Street Journal also were there.

Richard and I were the only two reporters on hand from Las Vegas. Traveling around the world is expensive, but the Sun willingly spent the money so that its readers would be able to understand what is going on in Macau - and what is expected to take place - from a Las Vegas perspective.

• • •

The Wynn Macau opening was a landmark for the Chinese enclave. Steve Wynn told me right after he won the Macau casino concession that he wasn't going to build a no-frills gambling hall just to get his straw into the drink as soon as possible.

Wynn felt that he owed it to the Macau government officials, particularly its Chief Executive Edmund Ho, to build a quality property that would reward Ho's belief that Las Vegas resort operators could help transform Macau's casino-based economy.

I met Ho the evening of the opening and it is apparent that he is quite pleased by Wynn Macau.

And he should be pleased and proud of the new resort - by far the nicest and most luxurious in Macau. Although it remains to be seen whether Wynn Macau will generate the kind of high-rolling action it needs to succeed, no one has become rich betting against Wynn.

• • •

Former Golden Nugget owners Tim Poster and Tom Breitling were among Wynn's invited guests at the opening. Although neither was willing to confirm their intent to pursue a joint-venture opportunity with Wynn, there are a few clues that suggest just that.

First, Wynn has said he intends to partner in joint-ventures to develop his 54-acre site on Macau's Cotai strip.

Second, Poster and Breitling are friends with the Fertitta brothers (Frank III and Lorenzo), Station Casinos top two executives. Wynn has mentioned the Fertittas as the kind of operators he'd like to joint-venture with.

Third, Poster and Breitling have visited Macau a few times in the last year, and both said they are interested in Macau opportunities.

• • •

The most amazing thing I saw in Macau was the Sands casino. The casino owned by Venetian parent Las Vegas Sands has more table games than any other in the world, a jaw-dropping 740, most of them baccarat.

Big Las Vegas casinos have about 150 tables. The best way I can think of to relate what the Sands looks like: Take the entire giant rectangular casino floor at Bally's, stack two more floors exactly the same size on top, and fill all three floors almost from wall to wall with tables. Then put a crowd of players around almost every table. It's like viewing the Pacific Ocean after spending your life looking at Lake Mead.

• • •

One of the best things about Macau casinos is the quality of the employees. They are hard-working, talented and eager to please. The Wynn Macau workers seemed exceptionally courteous and one reason why may be the way they are treated.

On the Wynn employee dining room menu on Tuesday: Lobster tails and beef tenderloin among dozens of high-quality offerings.

Jeff Simpson is business editor of the Las Vegas Sun and executive editor of its sister publication In Business Las Vegas.