Steve Wynn to christen Macau hotel

Sep 5, 2006 8:11 AM

In the hours leading up to the opening of Steve Wynn’s newest creation in Macau, the "Magic Man" was seen greeting people in the lobby, joking and laughing, appearing every bit like a billionaire about to christen a new baby.

The opening of the $1.2 billion Wynn Macau has been mostly shrouded in secrecy, much the way the opening of Wynn Las Vegas was handled.

Yet, the second smallest hotel-casino ever built by the Las Vegas developer promises to revolutionize the casino landscape in the burgeoning Chinese enclave.

Wynn is actually betting that his lavish rooms, trendsetting casino and Las Vegas-like entertainment will attract the Chinese gambling masses eager to spend the money they’ve been raking in from the country’s sizzling economy.

Macau, which returned to Chinese rule (from Portugal) in 1999, is the only place in China that allows casino gambling. For 40 years, the industry was controlled by local tycoon Stanley Ho. But Ho’s monopoly ended in 2002, when the government began shaking up the market and inviting new competition from Las Vegas.

Only two Las Vegas companies were allowed into Macau: Wynn Resorts and Las Vegas Sands. The latter, which is owned by Wynn arch nemesis Sheldon Adelson, landed in Macau first, opening in 2004 its gleaming Sands Macau, which has so far been wildly successful.

Initially, Wynn Macau will open with 600 guest rooms, 100,000 square feet of casino space, 200 table games, 350 slot machines, seven restaurants, 28,000 square feet of retail shops, a spa and entertainment venues.

Phase two of the resort will add another 85,000 square feet of casino space with 150 additional table games and 500 slots, a sports book, two more restaurants, a theater and front-of-the-property water attraction.

Like its bigger cousin in Las Vegas, Wynn Macau’s tower features the same shiny copper exterior and upward-sweeping roof with a "sky casino."

Wynn said earlier he believes his resort will set a standard for Macau that has not previously existed, much like Caesars Palace did in Las Vegas when Jay Sarno opened its doors in 1966.

"The Sands Macau has terrific rooms, but the building is filled with baccarat tables," Wynn said. "This will be the first integrated, all-purpose, 360 degree hotel on a piece of land that is not totally urban in nature."

Industry insiders have said the Wynn name should help attract some of the 200 million-plus Chinese who live around Macau.

Jim Medick, chief executive officer of the MRC Group, a Nevada market research firm, said Wynn Macau should benefit all casino companies as the market grows and is divided among the local companies.

UNLV professor Bill Thompson, who specializes in gaming studies, believes that Wynn Macau will put Las Vegas on the map for a lot more customers, perhaps even more than the Sands Macau has.

"His name, now his brand, carries a lot more force than the name Sands," Thompson said. "When Wynn gets going, (it) will help more than just the Strip. Wynn and all Vegas will get a boost."

Other analysts add that the new Wynn casino should stimulate the high-end gaming business.

"They should open up a lot more Asian traffic than it’s ever had before and more high-end gamblers, a market segment which has been stagnant for five or six years and should now see a big boost," said Brian Gordon, a partner in Las Vegas-based Applied Analysis, a financial consulting firm.