The Sands Cotai Central features multiple luxury hotels, high-end retail stores, ballrooms, convention halls and of course casinos in what amounts to a double-down bet on the spending power of China’s burgeoning middle class.
“We’re going to make Macau a city of business, conventions and leisure tourism,” Sands group chairman Sheldon Adelson told hundreds of journalists at the glitzy new resort’s opening news conference.
Located in the middle of the former Portuguese colony’s casino strip, the Sands Cotai Central was 10 years in the making and was dogged by regulatory and financial obstacles including the 2008 global liquidity crisis.
Sands already runs the Venetian Macau, the Four Seasons and the Sands Macau in the southern Chinese territory, which overtook Las Vegas in terms of gaming revenue after the sector was opened to foreign competition in 2002.
Adelson rejected suggestions his company’s dominance in the Macau market was unhealthy for competition, saying he was merely reaping the rewards of being among the first the enter the market.
“If you won the lottery for US$100 million, how much of that would you share with people who didn’t buy a ticket?” the US billionaire said.
“The land was reserved for a fireworks factory… No one believed that this was a viable place for an integrated resort,” he added, recalling his first visit to the “swamp” now known as the Cotai Strip.
Macau’s gambling revenue soared 42% to a record US$33.47 billion in 2011, but the pace of growth in the world’s biggest gaming hub slowed from a year earlier, according to official figures.
The total is about five to six times higher than the amount that gamblers are thought to have spent on the Las Vegas Strip in 2011, according to Hong Kong-based brokerage CLSA.
The territory, which was handed back to China in 1999, is the only Chinese city where casino gambling is allowed.