With the crash of a champagne bottle against a gondola, Macau's Venetian casino opened today, dwarfing anything in Las Vegas and big enough...

Share story

MACAU — With the crash of a champagne bottle against a gondola, Macau’s Venetian casino opened today, dwarfing anything in Las Vegas and big enough, its operators say, to shift the focus of the gambling world to this small city in southern China.

American billionaire Sheldon Adelson and his wife Miriam inaugurated the $2.4 billion Venetian Macao Resort Hotel on Cotai by smashing a bottle of champagne against a gondola, which will float down one of three indoor canals, compared with only one at the Venetian in Las Vegas.

Casinos like the Wynn and Adelson’s Sands have led this small city in southern China past the Las Vegas Strip as the world’s most lucrative gambling center.

Las Vegas Sands Corp. Chairman Adelson wants to take it a giant step further with the 10.5 million square foot Venetian.

Most Read Life Stories

Unlimited Digital Access. $1 for 4 weeks.

Hundreds of eager visitors streamed under the golden dome just inside the entrance today, treading on thick champagne colored carpet and taking in the fresco paintings on the wall.

Adelson hopes the complex will transform Macau from a gambling pit stop for Chinese tourists to a vacation and business convention destination, where visitors shop, watch shows — and roll the dice.

Macau’s casinos are currently scattered across the territory, a peninsula connected to mainland China and two outlying islands by a reclaimed strip of land called Cotai.

Adelson said his Venetian Macao Resort Hotel on Cotai is the cornerstone of what will become a concentrated resort area he calls the Cotai Strip.

Las Vegas Sands claims the 10.5 million square foot Venetian — twice the size of the Las Vegas original — is the largest building in Asia. The Venetian boasts it has the world’s largest gaming space of 550,000 square feet, 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 of convention space, fine dining and a Cirque du Soleil-produced show.

Its decor is Venice inspired — with a Chinese touch. Chinese-style sampans as well as gondolas will sail down canals. The resort also features a replica of Venice’s St. Mark’s Square.

Adelson also plans to open more hotels under brands such as Four Seasons, Sheraton and St. Regis. In all, his Las Vegas Sands Corp., which also runs the Sands Macao on the Macau peninsula, plans to invest up to $12 billion and build 20,000 hotel rooms on the Cotai Strip by 2010.

Some analysts say Adelson is smart in trying to lure new tourists to Macau. The convention business — a specialty of the Las Vegas Sands — is a lucrative one, they say.

Las Vegas Sands President William Weidner said 44 major conventions have already been scheduled at the Venetian over the next two years.