IAG May 2014 - page 11

May2014
inside
asiangaming
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sSandsMacaoemployeesbeganarriving forworkaround
7 a.m. on Tuesday, 18thMay, 2004, a crowdwas already
forming on the street, nine hours before the casino’s
scheduledgrandopening. Aroundnoon, a rumor spread
that guests would receive free chips worth MOP200
(US$25), swelling the crowd. Just before2p.m., duringa reception for
invitedguests, securitybegan“freakingout,”according toanexecutive
of LasVegasSandsCorp. sent fromLasVegas for theopening.
LVS Executive Vice President Brad Stone slipped down the
escalator from the second-level casino to the lobby and saw
thousands of people had surged past barricades and were pressed
against the glass entrance doors. Security feared that people would
be crushed, hardly the ideal opening day headline for Macau’s first
American-operated casino.
“Open the doors now!” Mr Stone yelled. “I want these doors
opennow!”
But the doors were designed to swing outward, a physical
impossibility with the crowd pressed against them. The only option
was to yank thedoors inwardandsnap themoff their hinges.Guards
began pulling furiously on the doors. People outside sawwhat was
happening and joined in. In all, 16 doors were smashed and shoved
aside to let people enter SandsMacao, putting conventional ribbon-
cuttings to shame.
The crowd surged toward the escalator and within minutes,
the overburdened machine halted and bodies lurched backward.
People at the bottom of the escalator tumbled like bowling pins. “I
remember the headof security, this bigAustralianguy, trying to stop
people from getting on and help the ones coming down,” aMacau
resident in the crowd recalls. “He looked like a superhero, this big
gweilo [Westerner] trying to catch these littleChinesepeople.”
Despite those hiccups, 40,000 people visited Sands Macao on
opening day, nearly triple its official capacity, marveling at the Paul
Steelman-designed interiorwithhigh ceilings above 277 table games
and 405 slot machines and enjoying the entertainment right there
on the bright casino floor while employees dispensed tea, cards and
HK$100 chipswith smiles rather than scowls. “Thiswas amust-see
event thathad lasthappened in 1970whenLisboaopened,” longtime
University ofMacaugaming lawprofessor JorgeGodinho says.
“We have the opportunity to learn from one another,” Stanley
Ho, whobuilt the Lisboa andheldMacau’s gamingmonopoly for 40
years, told reporters at the Sands opening behind a broad grin. “The
cake is going tobebigger andbigger, andwe all couldhave a share.”
But privately he had a different reaction. “WhenStanleyHowent
up theescalator andsaw theSandsgamingfloor, his jawdropped,”a
witness recalls. After leaving,MrHo reportedly summonedhis inner
circle and demanded action: “We are Chinese, and we will not be
disgraced.Wewill not lose to intruders.”
Eventually, the gawking guests began to gamble. Even though
SandsMacaohadno regular junkets, nohotel rooms, no shows and
itssix restaurants, including the longestbuffet inMacau, bledmoney,
the 1 million-square-foot (93,000-square-meter) complex earned
back its entireUS$265million construction costwithinninemonths.
MassAwakening
“We woke up the world to Asian gaming,” a former LVS executive
who requested anonymity says. “SandsMacaoproved the value and
profitabilityofmassgaming.”Fromgrossgaming revenueofUS$3.6
billion in2003, thefinal year of the casinomonopoly, revenue rose to
$5.2 billion in 2004, passed Las Vegas in 2006 and hit $45.2 billion
last year, seven times LasVegas Stripgaming revenue.
“SandsMacaoprovedmass-market gaminghadhugepotential,”
UniversityofMacauassociatebusinesseconomicsprofessorRicardo
Siu Chi Sen says. “Catering to mass-market players changed the
traditional gamingbusinessmodel here.”
“Sands Macao’s impact was huge. It was the thing that
transformed the gaming industry inMacau. Before that, the casinos
were fairly sleazy and didn’t have any razzamatazz. Sands brought
the Las Vegas buzz toMacau,” Spectrum Asia CEO Paul Bromberg
says.
“Mixing American culture with Chinese was totally a new
concept,” says Platinum Ltd Managing Director Mary Mendoza,
who worked for LVS inmarketing when Sands Macao opened. The
Macau native says dozens of players became millionaires through
Sands’ rewards program, another new concept for the market, and
highlights the strategic decision to use simplified Chinese signage
favoredbymainlanders.
Crowds continueflocking to theopeningsofnewSandsproperties inMacau.
StanleyHoat theopeningdayof SandsMacaoon18thMay, 2004.
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