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aug 29 2007

Macau's Vegas-style makeover continues

Yesterday, the Venetian became the latest transplant to open in Macau, which has rapidly morphed into a glitzy, much-hyped gambling haven. Casinos in this former Portuguese colony--a tiny peninsula connected to mainland China and about 40 miles from Hong Kong--already rake in more money than their Vegas counterparts.

American billionaire Sheldon Adelson was on hand for the obligatory smashing of a champagne bottle, in this case, against the side of a gondola, one of many floating down the gaudy casino's canals. Touted as the world's largest gambling space, the Venetian Macao-Resort-Hotel has 400 slot machines, 800 gambling tables, 3,000 rooms, and 1.2 million square feet of convention space, according to the AP.

The Venetian joins a market recently crowded by casinos like the Sands, also developed by Adelson, and the Wynn Macau, yet the demand seems almost insatiable. (I happened to be in Macau in July 2005, about a year after the Sands opened, and had to wait in line just to enter the jam-packed casino on a weekday afternoon!)

Gamblers have long flocked to Macau, but until 2001 they were at the mercy of Stanley Ho and his 40-year monopoly on the local casino industry. For a taste of the old-school gambling scene, make a beeline for Ho's Casino Lisboa--you can't miss it, the roof is shaped like a giant roulette wheel.

Photo: Venetian Macao

Related: Trip Coach: Hong Kong and Macau.

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Note:This story was accurate when it was published. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.

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