Sheldon Adelson Opens New Resort and Casino in China - The Jewish Voice
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Sheldon Adelson Opens New Resort and Casino in China

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A model of the Cotai Strip featuring Sands Cotai Central was displayed at a press conference Wednesday. (From L to R): John Vanderslice, Global Head of Luxury & Lifestyle Brands, Hilton Worldwide; Mr. Edward Tracy, President and CEO of Sands China Ltd., Mr. Michael A. Leven, President and CEO of Las Vegas Sands Corp; Mr. Sheldon G. Adelson, Chairman of the Board and CEO of Las Vegas Sands Corp.; Dr. Miriam Adelson; Mr. Keith Barr, Chief Executive Officer, Greater China, InterContinental Hotel Group; and Mr. Josef Dolp, Managing Director, Sheraton Macao Hotel, Cotai CentralSands China Ltd., the majority-held Asian subsidiary of the Las Vegas Sands Corporation, a global integrated resort developer headed by casino and hotel magnate Sheldon Adelson, has opened doors to its new casino and resort in Macau, a special administrative region, and casino hub, located in Southern China. A more than $4 billion project, the nascent Sands Cotai Central represents Adelson’s corporation’s fourth holding in the region, and the first to be installed in Macau this year.

The three-tower resort joins nearby properties to form a fully integrated resort city, offering a diverse mix of accommodation, entertainment, dining, retail, and gaming. Sands Cotai Central now puts the millions of business and leisure travelers that visit Macau annually at the center of the Cotai Strip, providing pathways to adventure, fun and—on occasion— fortune.

Cotai is a reclaimed territory in Macau, a former Portuguese colony, and is named after the two colony islands it connects—Coloane, and Taipa.

The Importance of the New Casino

For Adelson, who is worth over $20 billion and is regarded as one of the wealthiest men on the globe—this latest business move has intensified his presence in Macau at a critical time. Because Macau is the only territory in China where gambling is legal, the local government’s introduction of foreign investors in 2002 set off a race by casino moguls to secure land and build high-end resorts and casinos. Macau’s economy thrived, but analysts feared the exponential increase in colonial revenue might prove unsustainable in the long run.

In 2010, local authorities took decisive action. Approvals for landing projects were dispensed with less frequently, and regulations on the number of employable gaming rooms were strictly enforced. Casino developers are struggling to gain license to build, and this situation has appreciated the value of Sands Cotai Central. No casinos are scheduled to be constructed until 2015, giving Sands the opportunity to stand out in a relatively uncompetitive current market.

Some analysts have called it a “game changer.”

According to estimates from the CLSA Asia-Pacific Markets, a financial services group, Sands China is expected to increase its stake in the Macau casino market from 15 to 20 percent in 2012.

The opening of Cotai Central—the thirty fifth casino in Macau—took place on Wednesday, April 11, at 5 PM. Hordes arrived to enter the casino; the opening was preceded by a lavish and widely attended ceremony, which included a tightrope walk, Chinese dragon dance, and the debut of a new “God of Fortune” statue. Sands China execs opened the doors to the casino, which presently offers 340 gaming tables, 20 VIP rooms, and 1,800 hotel suites. According to sources, the establishment of the casino will be implemented in stages; 200 tables are expected to complete a total of 540 playing stands by the end of the year.

A Bumpy Road

Initially, the developers wanted 670 tables. But the government presented some hindrances along the way, and a settlement was agreed upon for a lesser amount.

Aside from this particular issue, Sands Cotai Central also faced an obstacle in general construction of the venue. Because of government regulations, only a certain number of foreign employees were sanctioned on the island at the given time. This factor, coupled with the 2008 global economic downturn, curbed developmental efforts in Cotai and forced Sands to postpone opening for almost a year.

But, considering that six casino operators—including rivals such as Wynn Resorts Ltd., MGM Resorts International, and Galaxy Entertainment—are waiting for the government to announce approval of proposals for available parcels in Macau, Sands representatives are satisfied with how things have turned out. Galaxy Entertainment opened a $2 billion resort, Galaxy Macau, this past May, and Sands was eager to splash on the scene, as well.

For Sands, Macau exemplifies the art of casino and resort development.

“We are witnessing a historic moment with the opening of Sands Cotai Central,” Adelson, who went public and became the CEO of Las Vegas Sands in 2004, explained in a statement. “The Cotai Strip is the largest tourism project on the planet. And it all began with a vision that started with a reclaimed area of sand and mud and has arrived to where we are now – one giant step closer to establishing Macau as one of the world’s top leisure, entertainment and business destinations.”

“People said it couldn’t be done; but we have shown that nothing is impossible,” he continued. “We made a promise to Macau to develop integrated resorts with non-gaming attractions to bring in a more diverse demographic of visitors; and that’s exactly what we’ve delivered.”

Living Accommodations for All

The Hilton and InterContinental groups negotiated with Sands to operate at Cotai Central, and 2,000 hotel rooms are also expected to be constructed under the Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide brand of the Sheraton Towers. In all, the project is projected to add 6,000 hotel rooms to the Cotai Strip—as it has been increasingly called, due to its resemblance to Vegas—alleviating the scarcity of hotel rooms that has plagued the area since its inception.

Edward M. Tracy, President and Chief Executive Officer of Sands China Ltd, clarified why the addition of living accommodations was such a key aspect of Sands’ latest venture.

“Our company’s goal is nothing short of firmly establishing Macau as Asia’s must-visit business and leisure destination,” Tracy stated. “The opening of Sands Cotai Central goes a long way toward realizing that goal, made possible on a multitude of levels because of our integrated resort model.”
“Looking at accommodation as just one example, the addition of our approximately 6,000 new rooms and suites to the market represents a 26 percent increase in [Macau’s] hotel capacity,” he added. “And those 6,000 rooms represent a new diversity of accommodation offering on the Cotai Strip, opening the way for a much wider demographic of overnight visitor and meeting and convention attendee.”

Plans for the Future

In a press conference held before the opening of the new resort, Adelson spoke more broadly about Sands’ efforts globally. Despite the importance of the Macau investment, Adelson and his team have continued to set their sights on profitable locales all over the globe.

“We are looking at 12 integrated resorts, 3,000 rooms each,” Adelson said when discussing his plans for Europe. According to the Jewish American business magnate, Sands will soon begin developing in Spain. “[The resort in Spain will be] a mini Las Vegas, about half the size of the Las Vegas strip in Spain for the European market.”

This European project is expected to cost $35 billion; $2.5 to $3 billion per the twelve resorts planned. Sands hopes to target gamblers from Western and Eastern Europe, and the former Soviet bloc. According to Adelson, the company has yet to decide whether to construct the casino in Barcelona or Madrid, but is certain the plan will take five to ten years to complete.

In Asia, Adelson hopes to reinforce his holdings in Cotai. Constructing a 3,600 room resort on a nearby plot is next on his list.

“We hope to move some dirt around, (do some) compacting of the earth, and put in pilings by the end of this year,” with construction taking 24 to 30 months, Adelson explained, according to Bloomberg Businessweek.

But Macau is only one among his Asian targets.

“We are looking to build two each in Japan, Korea and Vietnam,” Adelson added. “Taiwan is late in catching up. There is pending legislation in the other three countries.”

A Jewish Magnate

Born to Ukrainian Jewish immigrants, Adelson has, over the years, used his money to support a number of Jewish and Israeli organizations, initiatives, and companies. He has donated millions to the Birthright Program, which affords young adults the opportunity to explore Israel for the first time, and the Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial Museum in Jerusalem, which preserves the memories of those who died in World War II.

Adelson also owns Israel Hayom, an Israeli newspaper that has grown increasingly popular despite its short existence. He and his wife, Miriam, have continually backed Israel in their philanthropic efforts, and, most recently, bankrolled Newt Gingrich in his presidential bid—partly, according to analysts, due to Gingrich’s sympathetic views of the Jewish state.

Las Vegas Sands, which Adelson has developed during the last three decades, has a portfolio of resorts and casinos worldwide, some of which are largely regarded as the most preeminent in the industry. The Venetian Resort, Hotel, and Casino, The Palazzo Resort, Hotel, and Casino, and the Sands Expo and Convention Center represent Sands holdings in Las Vegas, with The Venetian most venerated for its high-end facilities and European style, modeled on the Italian city of Venice.

Vegas and Macau have combined powerfully for Adelson and his corporation. Discovering an untapped resource in the East, Sands shifted to Asia in the mid-2000s with the openings of the Sands Macao in 2004 and The Venetian Macao Resort-Hotel in 2007.

Now Sands has another resort to add to its collection.

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