Adelson Unveils Plan for New Eiffel Tower Replica Macau Casino

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Sep/20/2012
Adelson Unveils Plan for New Eiffel Tower Replica Macau Casino

(AFP) - Las Vegas casino boss Sheldon Adelson on Thursday unveiled plans to build a scaled down replica of the Eiffel Tower as part of a new $3 billion gambling resort in Macau.

The Las Vegas Sands Corp. chief spoke publicly for the first time about the new development as he opened a Sheraton hotel in the second phase of his latest $4.4 billion resort, the Sands Cotai Central, itself only five months old.

The Parisian, as it will be known, will add hundreds more gambling tables and hotel rooms to the former Portuguese colony at a time when both China's economy and revenue from high-rolling gamblers are slowing.

Adelson dismissed concerns that the southern Chinese territory's boom days were over, saying "we would not be expanding if we did not think there was a future here".

The 9,000-room Cotai Central development is Sands China's fourth casino resort in Macau, the world's biggest gambling centre and the only place in China where casino gambling is legal.

Adelson said the Parisian would cost $2.5-$3 billion, include 3,000 hotel rooms and feature a "50 percent scale-to-scale" replica of France's most famous landmark.

Las Vegas already boasts a replica of the 320-metre- (1,050-foot-) tall tower, but Adelson said Macau's version would be better as its legs would be free-standing instead of passing through other buildings.

The Parisian is one of several big new resorts on Adelson's drawing board, with further expansion planned in Europe, Japan, Korea and Vietnam. He said he would also invest in Taiwan if the government legalised casino gambling.

Las Vegas Sands earlier this month said it had chosen Madrid as the preferred location for a huge integrated gambling, hotel and conventions resort, dubbed Euro Vegas.

Semi-autonomous Macau overtook Las Vegas as the world's gaming capital, in terms of revenue, after the sector was opened to foreign investors in 2002.

Sands owns one of only six casino-operating licences issued by the territory. Its US competitor, Wynn Resorts, owns another.

In a recent report about Macau's gaming sector, entitled "Still Raining Cash", brokerage firm CLSA cut its 2012 gaming revenue growth forecast from 16 percent to 13 percent, and from 11 percent to seven percent in the VIP segment.

That represents a sharp drop from the giddy days of 2010 when quarterly VIP revenue growth was more than 50 percent, but CLSA still rates all six Macau casino operators a "buy".

"If you want to get exposure to the whole Asian consumer, middle-class expansion thing, the best way to do it is through Macau, without question," CLSA gaming analyst Aaron Fischer told reporters last week.

He said there was a "massive shortage" of hotel rooms in Macau, a city of only around 550,000 people, which generated $34 billion in gaming revenue last year on the back of mainland Chinese visitors.

With personal wealth reported at $25 billion, Adelson's expansion into Macau has attracted the attention of US and Macau authorities after sacked Sands China executive Steven Jacobs launched a wrongful dismissal suit in Nevada.

Jacobs has said he was told to cover up suspicious payments to a Macau lawmaker, and that Adelson had turned a blind eye to prostitution at his lucrative Chinese casinos.

Adelson -- a major donor to Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney -- has dismissed the allegations as the spiteful actions of a disgruntled former employee.

But Fischer said Adelson's legal battles presented an "overhang for the share price" of Sands China, which has not risen as sharply as some of its local rivals in the past year.

Business/Financial News

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