Macau's Himalayan game of fortune

Updated on: Apr 26, 2012

Macau too has the Himalaya — except, this is a uniquely themed casino with over 300 gaming tables at the newly-opened resort Sands Cotai Central on the island's Cotai strip. Three global hotel brands — Holiday Inn, Conrad and Sheraton — are part of this casino resort.

We were a group of Indian journalists invited for the resort's opening by its owner, Sands China.

A first-time gambler, I made a small fortune thanks perhaps to the ‘God of Fortune' statue near the casino entrance. The work of leading Chinese sculptor Sun Jiabin, the 16-ft tall, 2,500-kg statue made of polished bronze and 24-carat gold leaf accents is the main attraction at Paradise Gardens, an indoor garden with cascading waters and natural light.

For beginners, the slot machines are the best bet as the casino workers are not of much help due to the language barrier. During a bus ride, I met an Indian working as a chef at one of the casinos who admitted that language is a big problem here. He too observed that most tourists stuck to the slot machines.

Interestingly, the casinos are attracting plenty of senior citizens, who too prefer the slot machines. As one of them put it simply, “I like to play the whole day.”

And why not? Drinks and short eats are on the house.

The opening ceremony was marked by a traditional lion dance and the unveiling of the God of Fortune statue. This was followed by a high-wire performance by sky-walker Jade Kindar-Martin and his wife. They traversed a 1,700 ft stretch, 500 ft above ground, on a wire less than one inch thick. The walk took them from Sands Cotai Central to the Venetain Macao Resort on the Cotai strip.

The Venetian, incidentally, is famous in India for hosting the International Indian Film Academy (IIFA) awards.

Macau, a former Portuguese colony, buzzes with life all day long, with people coming in from all over the world. This has forced the casinos to go beyond gaming options.

Sands' integrated resort offers 1.2 million sq ft of retail, entertainment, and meetings and convention space. The resort hopes to attract the lucrative MICE segment of business travellers. The idea is that the business travellers will visit again with their family, says Sheldon G. Adelson, chairman and CEO of Las Vegas Sands.

This seems to be happening already, with the casinos now bringing in a lot more family crowd.

Holiday Inn Macao Cotai Central's facilities include grand ballrooms, which can be segmented into smaller meeting rooms with soundproof partition. Holiday Inn has over 1,200 rooms, while Conrad with its ‘smart luxury' tag will have around 600 rooms and suites.

The Sheraton brand is expected to add another 4,000 rooms and suites.

Located close to Macau International Airport, the resort can be reached by means of the CotaiJet ferry services operated by Sands China. With seating for 400, the jet deposits you at the resort at the end of a smooth, 45-minute ride.

There are plans for a high-speed rail link to bring in more people from the mainland.

Keen to turn Macau into ‘Asia's largest Las Vegas', Adelson is however quick to clarify that “this is no Disneyland for adults like Las Vegas”.

After some winnings, you'd naturally wish to indulge in shopping. An impressive line-up of retail stores is ready at hand. The number of retailers is expected to increase from 30 currently to more than 600 on completion of the Shoppes Cotai.

Away from the glitz and glamour of the casinos, there is plenty still to uncover on the island. This former colony retains a lot of its old-world charm.

San Malu, a central shopping plaza, has streets that still bear Portuguese names and are lined by buildings with distinctive colonial architecture.

There are rows and rows of street shops with mini-malls and eateries. The Red market is the go-to place for a cheaper shopping experience. It offers a wide range of quality products and one can bargain here too.

Published on April 26, 2012

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