Venetian aims to transform Chinese gambling enclave into full-fledged resort city

American billionaire Sheldon Adelson brought a taste of Venice to Macau on Tuesday, as singing gondoliers and exploding red firecrackers opened a massive new casino and hotel resort, a bid to transform the southern Chinese gambling enclave into a top vacation spot.
Adelson and his wife Miriam inaugurated the US$2.4 billion (euro1.8 billion) Venetian Macao Hotel Resort by smashing a bottle of champagne against the front of one of the complex's gondolas at a ribbon-cutting ceremony that also featured harlequins performing on stilts.
The resort opened to the public later Tuesday, with the first of hundreds of visitors filing in, treading on thick champagne colored carpet and taking in the fresco paintings on the walls.
Some guests posed for pictures under the golden dome ceiling just inside the entrance to the resort, which claims to house the world's largest casino floor.
Others cheered as gondoliers wearing straw hats maneuvered their vessels down indoor canals, which snaked through the resort to reach a replica of St. Mark's Square.
"This place is world-class. I'm really impressed by how big it is," said A.K. Lin, a visitor from China's eastern Fujian province.
Casinos like the Wynn and Adelson's Sands have already helped this small city in southern China surpass the Las Vegas Strip as the world's most lucrative gambling center.
Las Vegas Sands Corp. Chairman Adelson aims to take a step further with the 10.5 million square feet (945,000 square meters) Venetian.
He hopes the complex will transform Macau, also spelled Macao, from a gambling pit stop for Chinese tourists to a vacation and business convention destination, where visitors can spend a few days shopping, watching shows _ and rolling dice.
"Today is the beginning of what has been a dream of mine for some time _ to reproduce the capital of entertainment in Asia for Asians," Adelson said at a press conference earlier Tuesday.
Macau's casinos are currently scattered across the territory, which comprises a peninsula connected to mainland China and two outlying islands linked by a reclaimed strip called Cotai.
Adelson hopes his Venetian Macao Resort Hotel on Cotai will help launch a massive, concentrated resort area he calls the Cotai Strip, after its Las Vegas counterpart.
Las Vegas Sands claims the 10.5 million square feet (945,000 square meters) Venetian _ twice the size of the Las Vegas original _ is the largest building in Asia and the second largest in the world. Boeing Co. claims it has the world's largest building _ a plant in the northwestern U.S. state of Washington.
The Venetian boasts what it claims to be the world's largest gaming space of 550,000 square feet (50,000 square meters), housing 3,400 slot machines _ with room to expand to 6,000 _ and more than 800 gambling tables.
It has 3,000 rooms, a 15,000-seat sports arena, retail space for 350 stores, 1.2 million square feet (108,000 square meters) of convention space, fine dining and a Cirque du Soleil-produced show.
Adelson also plans to open more hotels under brands such as Four Seasons, Sheraton and St. Regis next door. In all, his Las Vegas Sands Corp., which also runs the Sands Macao on the Macau peninsula, plans to invest up to US$12 billion (euro8.8 billion) and build 20,000 hotel rooms on the Cotai Strip by 2010.
While some analyst believe Adelson is smart to broaden the appeal of Macau and target the lucrative convention business _ a Las Vegas Sands specialty _ others say it will take time to change tourism patterns.
Las Vegas Sands President William Weidner said earlier that 44 major conventions have already been scheduled at the Venetian for the next two years.
He also said he expects the Venetian Macao to lengthen the average guest stay to three to four days from 1.2 days in other Macau hotels.
The massive resort appealed to Hong Kong tourist Tivonah Cheung, who joined a tour group at the Venetian's opening.
"I'm already saving up so that I can stay a few nights here. This place feels different from all the other casinos. It could be a place to relax and escape from the city," the 55-year-old said.

Updated : 2021-01-28 23:33 GMT+08:00