Sands Cotai opens in falling Macau tide

The world’s biggest Sheraton hotel opened at Sands Cotai Central last week, part of the Macau resort’s second phase that includes a South Pacific themed casino and dozens more retail shops. I covered the phase one opening in April, including an up close and personal encounter with Sheldon Adelson, the chairman of Sands China and its parent company, Las Vegas Sands.

I’ll be writing more about Sands Cotai Central (SCC) for Asia Times and about Macau casino trends for Macau Business magazine in the weeks ahead.

Until then, consider that SCC has opened into the teeth of a rare run of slowing casino revenue growth in Macau. The situation resembles conditions facing the 2009 opening of City of Dreams, SCC’s neighbor on the east side of Cotai’s main boulevard, across the Venetian Macao.

In 2009, the main problem was restricted visas for mainland travelers. In the three years since, Macau has become even more dependent on mainland visitors, and now it’s seeing slowing growth in step with China’s decelerating economy. For better or worse, analysts see Macau resorts becoming more closely tied to the mainland economy in the years ahead. Rather than spreading their bets, it seems Macau’s casinos have doubled down on the mainland.

Totally globalized native New Yorker and former broadcast news producer Muhammad Cohen is author of Hong Kong On Air, a novel set in his adopted hometown during the 1997 handover about television news, love, betrayal, high finance, and cheap lingerie. See his bio, online archive and more at www.muhammadcohen.com; follow him on Facebook and Twitter @MuhammadCohen.

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