If you thought the Venetian Macao was a huge building, think again. The opening of Sands Cotai Central last month introduced a building that is even bigger. With almost 6,000 hotel rooms and two casinos, the property is 30 percent larger than the Venetian, when it is fully operational, estimated to be sometime in the fall.
The integrated resort opened following a traditional Chinese dragon dance, high-wire tightrope performance and the unveiling of a 2,500-kilogram (5,500-pound) bronze and gold “God of Fortune” statue. The property evokes the Himalayan Mountains, with scenes of snow-capped peaks on the casino’s ceiling and replica boulders in the retail areas.
“There were few believers in my vision for the Cotai Strip when the site was basically under water,” said Sands China Chairman Sheldon Adelson. “With the completion of Sands Cotai Central, that same spot will be home to thousands of hotel rooms, millions of square feet of retail, meeting and convention space, dozens of restaurants and so many other attractions.
“The opening of Sands Cotai Central is a game-changer for the future of Macau as a leisure, entertainment and business location. On behalf of our entire company, we are proudly looking forward to introducing visitors from around the world to the largest integrated resort development ever constructed.”
Macau’s Cotai region was created from low-lying swampland between the two Macau islands of Coloane and Taipa. Adelson says the area was originally designated for a fireworks factory.
The $4.4 billion development increases the total Macau investment of Las Vegas Sands to more than $8 billion. Construction of Cotai Central began in 2007, but was suspended for two years during the depths of the worldwide recession. It will be the final integrated resort to open in Macau until at least 2015. The government is expected to grant two land concessions in the Cotai region of the SAR by the end of the year. Contenders are Wynn Macau, MGM China and SJM.
Sands Cotai Central includes three hotels: the world’s largest Holiday Inn, with 1,200 rooms, owned by InterContinental Hotels Group; Hilton’s five-star Conrad brand, with 600 rooms; and a 2,000-room Sheraton Hotel, owned by Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide. While the hotels will carry these brands, they will be operated by Sands China, with a franchise fee going to the hotels’ parent companies.
When the two casinos are fully opened with the introduction of phase 2, the facility will feature 530 table games, down from the initial plan of 670. The government has imposed a table-game cap, and Sands China had to be creative in adding games to Cotai Central. Initially, Cotai Central will open with 200 table games on the main casino floor, and up to 140 games to be placed in the resort’s 40 private VIP rooms.
Cotai Central’s focus is, however, the mass market. A foot bridge from the Four Seasons hotel, which is connected to the Venetian Macao, will make it easy for Sands China to capture much of the mass market. The retail area includes a day-care concept common in U.S. casinos, but unheard of thus far in Macau, another nod to the mass market. Food outlets replicate what has been successful in Macau but also introduce some provincial favorites, which should attract the Chinese mass-market gamblers.
Union Gaming Group says Sands China completes “the perfect Macau mousetrap.”
“We are very excited about the long-term prospects of Macau’s mass-market segment,” the company wrote in a note to investors, “driven by numerous infrastructure projects in China, Hong Kong and Macau, all of which should result in increased visitation. Taken in the context of Sands China’s gaming supply, along with non-gaming amenities that attract visitation, and that no other new supply will come online for at least another three years, we believe Sands China assets should outperform and take share over the near and medium terms.”