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Sands Man Sees a Vegas Planet
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American billionaire and gaming tycoon Sheldon Adelson said yesterday he wanted to set up variations of Las Vegas-style strips around the world, with Asia alone having room for several more casinos.


"What I'd like to do now is different mini-Las Vegas's, I call them, in different parts of the world," Adelson said after receiving a lifetime achievement award for enterprise at the Forbes Global CEO conference in Singapore.


"There are other parts of the world where we can convert gambling dens into cities of entertainment," said the chairman of Las Vegas Sands Corp. "I've been quoted as saying Asia can handle 10 Las Vegas's, maybe I'm off a little bit - maybe it's eight, maybe it's 12."


He also said there were opportunities in Europe, the Middle East, South America, and countries such as Russia, Turkey and India.


Adelson said gaming is increasingly accepted as another form of entertainment, partly because of the success of the Las Vegas model he helped develop, of integrating casinos with other offerings to maximize profit.


"What I did in the hotel and casino business is to fill the void of providing entertainment," he said. "Gaming has evolved from gambling dens into 'Disneylands' for adults."


He cited the example of Singapore - a wealthy and conservative city-state which in 2005 reversed a decades-old ban on casino gambling - and where Las Vegas Sands is now building a casino resort for a 2009 opening at a cost of about US$4 billion. A second casino license was awarded to Genting International PLC, whose resort is expected to be ready in 2010.


The nation's founding father Lee Kuan Yew has said he dislikes gambling - he opposed plans for a casino in the 1970s - but that he recognizes his country's image and economy will benefit from having casino gambling on its shores.


Aside from a casino, the Marina Bay Sands in Singapore will offer 2,500 hotel rooms, meeting and convention facilities including a 8,000-capacity ballroom, among other attractions.


"(Singapore) obviously recognized this basket of amenities that makes up an integrated resort," Adelson said.


Elsewhere in Asia, Adelson late last month in China's Macau Special Administrative Region opened what he's claimed is the world's largest casino floor housed in Asia's largest building - the US$2.4 billion Venetian Macao Hotel Resort. The big bet is that Macau can be more than a playground for gamblers from China's mainland who spend their time in the casinos.


Macau, just an hour by ferry from Hong Kong, has seen its gambling revenue grow rapidly since the government ended Hong Kong tycoon Stanley Ho's monopoly on the gaming industry after China resumed exercise of sovereignty over the city in 1999.


Macau topped Las Vegas Strip in gaming revenue last year to become the world's most lucrative gambling center.


(Shanghai Daily September 13, 2007)


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