Las Vegas investor sees big future - and a "small" Eiffel Tower
Hard to believe it’s been a decade already, but yes, the Sands Macao resort-casino opened its doors on May 18, 2004, and the anniversary earlier this month was cause to celebrate, with fireworks, lavish parties and other spectacles.
“Everybody predicted our failure, but I didn’t – I predicted our success!” declared Sheldon Adelson, chairman and CEO of Las Vegas Sands, which runs the Sands Macao. “I remember the opening. The escalators, which were very long, were packed with 30,000 people. We couldn’t count them all, but there are a lot of people. They couldn’t wait to get in – they knocked the door down. That was one of the most exciting days of my life!”
Adelson jumped into the casino business with the purchase of the Sands Hotel in Las Vegas in 1988 and then added the Sands Expo and Convention Centre. A decade later he spearheaded the expansion into Macau, until 1999 a Portuguese colony, to which China granted special economic status, ensuring its viability as a gambling destination for foreigners.
The million-square-foot Sands Macao was China’s first Las Vegas-style casino – and Adelson recovered his initial $265-million investment in one year.
“It came to be known – I think some of you out there coined this phrase – ‘the Sands effect’,” he told reporters at the anniversary bash. “That’s what it was called, for the level of excitement that a Western operator brought here to Asia.
“The Sands effect took off. This became what I predicted – the entertainment capital of Asia. So everything that people want, that adults want to enjoy when they go on vacation or when they travel, is here.
“An we are going to change the Sands here, to bring in more components. We only have a limited amount of space where we can build, but we’re going to bring in some retail, and we’re going to have another entrance in the front. We’re going to keep up with the new properties. It gives me great gratification to be accepted here in another country, away from my home country, to deliver what I hoped would be the case – the entertainment capital of Asia.”
In August 2007 Adelson opened the $2.4-billion Venetian Macao Resort Hotel on the Macau islet of Cotai. He followed up in 2012 with the Sands Cotai Central, which has shops, restaurants, entertainment for all ages, convention facilities and Conrad, Holiday Inn, Sheraton and St Regis hotels, as well as gaming.
And he promises he isn’t stopping there. “When the Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macau Bridge opens, I think we’ll see a resurgence of activity, because essentially Macau will have a second airport,” Adelson said, referring to Hong Kong’s busy Chek Lap Kok Airport.
“So we’re getting a ready-made second airport servicing a hundred airlines that are servicing 180 different cities. We have to get ready for what’s going to happen within the next two years.”
Last year the Las Vegas Sands unveiled plans for a 3,000-room hotel called the Parisian at the Sands Cotai that will feature a half-scale replica of the Eiffel Tower, as well as family-oriented facilities to lure middle-class gamblers.