Thursday, 5 February 2009

Ciao Macao !

China's Las Vegas & Little Lisbon

sunny 24 °C

While we were in HK, we decided to take the advantage of the proximity of HK and took a little side trip to Macau to see the newly completed The Venetians (costs Sheldon Adelsen - the 8th richest man in the world (for now) - a cool 1.2 Bln USD to build).

The main casino is completed with indoor and outdoor Grand Canal, gondolas, and gondoliers, but the building of many other casinos/hotels, which forms part of the huge resort complex comes to a halt, thanks to the financial crisis.

The entire resort is so big there is nowhere in Macau big enough to put it, so they have to fill the sea between the two islands - Coloane and Taipa, and call it Cotai Strip. When the government suggested to Aldelson to do this reclaimed land, they think the Macao government was nuts. Being an American that live in the 4th largest country on earth, reclaimed land is such an alien concept. But this is done in the population dense continent of Asia. The CDB on HK Island sits on mostly reclaimed land, which is hard to believe. If the HK developers continue this trends for a few more decades, there might not be a HK harbour left. That would be a great shame as HK harbours is one of five most photogenic harbour city in the world (the other four being Rio, Cape Town, Istanbul, and last but not least, Sydney - my home town).

The resort took up most of the space in the strip (Another Crown Casino - a new one - is being being built here. The old one - relatively speaking - is located near Grand Lisboa in the Macau Peninsula).
I had to say I was quite shocked by the huge change sicnce I visited there about 28 or so years ago with Darren. At the time the only casino that dominate the city landscape was Lisboa (aka the Bird Cage), now this is the smallest casino in the area. The newly erected Grand Lisboa looms over the old Lisboa like a parent stand over its child (As usual, the gorwn kid is much bigger than their parents). The Las Vegas operators of Wynn, MGM Grand, etc are all taking out a bite of the fat pie in this area.

On second thought, all this giddy growth of this small peninsula shouldn't come as a surprise. I was told that the gaming revenues in Macau already exceeded that of Las Vegas a few years ago, even though Las Vegas is still larger than Macau in terms of the number of operators and geographical size (for now). The swarming neighbouring Chinese gamblers would make these casinos the most profitable in the world. With its blistering pace of economic growth, it doesn't take long for all the Las Vegas operators coming here to take a slice of the actions. Stannley Ho - the King of Casino, the Magnate of Macau - used to take a strangle hold of the local casino business. When Macau was returned to its motrherland, Chinese government decided to make Macau the casino centre of China, and invited Las Vegas casino operators to put up their gaming business in Macau. The largest ones like Adelson, Wynn, MGM are already here. Remember, Macao is the only place in China where casinos are legal with a population of 1 billion who are getting rich quickly (and lose it all in gaming tables). Do the maths.

Having done a whirlwind tours of four casnios there (Grand Lisboa, Wynn, The Venetians and MGM Grand), I have to say Grand Lisboa impress me most in terms of customer service. In other words, attracting and keeping existing gamblers. I don't gamble at all, so this is an opinion of outsider.