American gaming mogul Stephen Wynn threw open the doors of his new US$1.2 billion (euro930 million) casino to gamblers Wednesday in Macau — the Chinese territory that seeks to rival the Las Vegas Strip as the world’s epicenter for gambling.
The sleek Wynn Macau casino with a sloping roof is a key part of Macau’s bid to transform itself from a second-rate spot for day-tripping gamblers to a major global tourist destination with luxury hotels, resorts, shows and convention centers.
Investors and casino tycoons have been pouring billions into the former Portuguese enclave during the past four years. They’re hoping to cash in on a huge surge in tourists from China, which took control of the tiny territory seven years ago.
Macau — a peninsula and two islands off the southeastern Chinese coast — is the only place in China that allows casino gambling.
Wynn told reporters Tuesday that the future of his Wynn Resorts Ltd. was in Macau and Asia.
“The speed of development is dizzying. The population it seeks to serve is expanding,” Wynn said, just hours before his resort’s midnight opening.
Wynn, 65, the son of a bingo parlor operator, met the media in his employees’ dining hall because he said he wanted to stress that people were the most important part of the hotel. He wore white loafers, slacks and an untucked blue button-up shirt that said on the back: “Knowledge destroys fear.”
After a fireworks show, thousands of people lined up to enter the casino resort when it opened at midnight.
Zhu Jingqing, a middle-aged man from the central Chinese province of Hubei, said he liked the atmosphere. “I feel all mainlanders should come here to have a look,” he said.
Kong Ermu, 28, a tourist from the eastern province of Anhui, said: “It’s far better than what I imagined. It’s classier and comfortable.”
The resort features 600 rooms, some with views of the South China Sea. The casino has plush bright red carpets and offers 200 table games and 380 slot machines in a hall of 9,300 square meters (100,000 sq. feet). The complex also has a spa, six gourmet restaurants and a shopping esplanade with Bulgari, Chanel, Fendi, Prada and Giorgio Armani stores.
The front of the casino has a performance lake with 3 million liters (800,000 gallons) of water. The hotel’s lobby looks out over a lush garden with a blue-tile swimming pool.
Wynn is famous for displaying fine art at his properties, and reception areas at the Wynn Macau feature two original French impressionist paintings: Henri Matisse’s “The Persian Robe” and Pierre-Auguste Renoir’s “Among the Roses.”
The casino opened two years after Wynn’s arch nemesis from Las Vegas, Sheldon Adelson, opened his gleaming Sands Macau. The casino has been wildly successful, and Adelson recouped his investment within the first year.
Many believe that Macau will soon overtake the Las Vegas Strip as the world’s casino capital. Last year, Macau was about even with the Las Vegas Strip, which had income of US$5.3 billion.
Some expect Macau to surpass the Las Vegas Strip this year because of a wave of new attractions opening. A theme park, the Fisherman’s Wharf, began operating earlier this year and another casino, Galaxy Star World, is to open in a month or so.
For about 40 years, Macau’s casino industry was a monopoly controlled by local tycoon Stanley Ho. The monopoly ended in 2002 when the government decided to offer concessions to foreign companies. Adelson and Wynn were the only two Las Vegas moguls to be granted full concessions.
Last week, Adelson swung through Macau and criticized Wynn’s resort. Adelson, ranked No. 14 on Forbes’ list of the world’s 100 richest people, said the resort would “only do OK” because it was too small and didn’t feature enough attractions.
But Wynn argued that quality was the most important factor for being successful, and he was confident that customers would be drawn to his fancy, high-end resort.
“We never wanted to be the biggest,” Wynn said. “We only enjoy being the best.”
He said that Wynn Resorts would be a Chinese company in the next eight to nine years. He said that already about one-third of the company’s 15,000 employees were Chinese.
“I suppose that number and percentage will grow rapidly in the future,” he said.