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Rod Smith

Wynn Optimistic About Macau Casino

27 July 2006

MACAU -- Steve Wynn has started dress rehearsals for his $1.2 billion Wynn Macau, the smallest hotel-casino ever built by the Las Vegas developer.

"This is my favorite time, a very exhilarating time. You get to see it all done, to see three-dimensionally all the thing's you've done," Wynn said.

While the 600-room resort is less than a quarter the size of Wynn Las Vegas, the year-old, $2.7 billion megaresort at the north end of the Strip, there has never been a hotel or casino development this big in the former Portuguese colony off the coast of China.

Wynn, in effect, is taking the Chinese where they've never been before.

And China, with the second-largest, fastest-growing middle class in the world, is about to take Wynn on a ride for his money.

Wynn's contractor, a joint venture between Leighton Contractors Ltd. and China State Construction Ltd., recently turned the entire project over to the developer and owner, Wynn Resorts Ltd.

Now, Wynn can begin fine-tuning his latest casino show and get ready to open the resort to the public on Sept. 5.

"This is my favorite moment in these projects, the period between when we wrap up (construction) and open because it becomes a training campus," Wynn said.

"We have it to ourselves. We can go anywhere, see everything we've done and even some things we forgot. It's quite exciting to see it all done," he said.

This is important for the development, Wynn said, because he will only have one chance to make a first impression and his Wynn Design company will be able to use the next five weeks to ensure the new resort makes the best first impression.

Wynn believes his resort will set a standard for Macau that has not previously existed, much like Caesars Palace did in Las Vegas when Jay Sarno opened its doors in 1966.

"The Sands Macau has terrific returns, but the building is filled with baccarat tables.

This will be the first integrated, all-purpose, 360-degree hotel on a piece of land that is not totally urban in nature," Wynn said.

Still, Wynn said his company has learned a lot from Las Vegas Sands, which opened its Sands Macau two years ago.

And similarly, he expects MGM Mirage and others will learn from him just as he learned from Sarno and Caesars Palace when he built The Mirage.

"MGM has copied our model exactly," he explained. "They just came to the same conclusions we did, even though theirs will be a little more crowded because it's on half the land.

"This is the plan the government (of China) has had all along. A rising tide lifts all the boats," Wynn said.

Industry insiders here have said the Wynn name should help draw some of the 200 million-plus Chinese who live around Macau.

Jim Medick, chief executive officer of the MRC Group, Nevada's largest market research firm, said Wynn Macau should benefit all casino companies as the market grows and is divvied up among the local players.

"What happens is the pie itself grows as the gaming, entertainment, reputation, experience acts as a raising flour to the recipe," he said.

University of Nevada, Las Vegas professor Bill Thompson, who specializes in gaming studies, believes that Wynn Macau will put Las Vegas on the map for a lot more consumers, much more so than the Sands Macau has.

"His name, now his brand, carries a lot more force than the name Sands," he said.

"When Wynn gets going, (it) will help more than just the Strip. Wynn and all Vegas will get a boost," he said.

Brian Gordon, a partner in Las Vegas-based financial consultants Applied Analysis, agrees that the Sands Macau and Wynn Macau together will lure millions of new visitors to Las Vegas.

"They should open up a lot more Asian traffic than it's ever had before and more high-end gamblers, a market segment which has been stagnant for five or six years and should now see a big boost," he said.

Wynn Macau's casino has the same shiny copper exterior as the Wynn Las Vegas and an upward sweeping roof with a "sky casino."

When it opens in a month, Wynn Macau will have 600 rooms; 100,000 square feet of gaming, with 200 table games and 350 slot machines; seven restaurants; 28,000 square feet of shops; a spa and entertainment venues.

The second phase, which should open in the first half of 2007, is expected to include 85,000 square feet of casino space, with 150 more table games and 500 more slots; a sports book; two restaurants; a theater; and a frontyard water attraction.