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Anniversary for the ages

Written by Ben Blaschke

As the Venetian Macao celebrates its 10th birthday, WGM takes a look at what has made this famous casino and Integrated Resort the icon it is today.

“Macau wow” read the headline in esteemed London newspaper The Economist. The New York Times calculated its floor space as more than four Empire State Buildings. “Monstrous”, “huge” and “enormous” screamed headlines in Sydney, Las Vegas and Tokyo.

Not only did the Venetian put Macau on the world map when it opened in 2007, it also proved that size does matter.

The brainchild of US billionaire and Las Vegas casino mogul Sheldon Adelson, the Venetian was the first piece in the puzzle of Adelson’s Cotai Strip – an ambitious plan to build an entertainment hub mirroring the famous Las Vegas Strip on a 6.7 square kilometer patch of reclaimed land in the tiny Chinese enclave.

Today, the Cotai Strip boasts eight integrated resorts – with two more to open by the end of 2018 – including eponymous Sands properties Plaza, Sands Cotai Central and the recently opened Parisian, however it was the arrival of the Venetian 10 years ago this month that changed the face of modern day Macau.

When its doors opened for the very first time on 28 August 2007, the Venetian’s 10.5 million square feet of floor space made it the biggest building in Asia and seventh largest in the world with room to fit around 100 Boeing 747s inside.

Construction required up to 11,000 workers on site at any one time and as many as 990 trucks entered the site each day. Incredibly, the amount of sand used for the reclamation of land for the Venetian would be enough to build Egypt’s largest pyramid while the amount of concrete poured could fill 318 Olympic-size swimming pools.

“Today is the beginning of what has been a dream of mine for some time – to reproduce the capital of entertainment in Asia for Asians,” said Adelson at the property’s launch. Bringing that dream to life required a massive workforce behind it, but even for the 16,000 employees at the time there was plenty of excitement as opening date moved ever closer.

“The ‘Opening Date’ was the common goal for all the team members,” recalls Gordon Ng – Director of Facilities at the Venetian and an employee for its entire 10-year history.

“It was really exciting and I remember always having this feeling of being in a rush to make sure everything got done, because we had an opening date that couldn’t be moved – but we finally got there!”

For Ida Lou, Associate Director of Services, Convention & Exhibition Operations, it was a time of regular trips back and forth from the company’s Macau Penisula o ce to the barren emptiness of the new Cotai Strip area from which the Venetian arose.

“I got to witness the transformation of a site of reclaimed land to an international resort,” Ms Lou says.

“When I came on board in April 2007, our temporary office was in the Zhu Kuan Building on the Macau Peninsula. We commuted daily from the Macau office to Cotai for site inspections before opening. We had to put on safety vests, safety hats and masks before entering the construction site, sometimes getting lost in the building!

“But day-by-day we saw the changes and finally the completion of this giant property in this small city of Macau.”

As for finding their way around, the Venetian threw up plenty of challenges for staff in those early days and has similarly confused millions of first-time visitors in the decade since.

“To be honest, the Venetian Macao is really big,” says Director of Human Resources, Sierra Chao. “It is even bigger if you combine The Plaza, Sands Cotai Central and The Parisian Macao.

“You find out first-hand how big it is when you need to go to meetings with other departments which are at least 30 minutes’ walk away back and forth, meaning you have to leave your office at least 20 minutes beforehand and walk at a very fast pace too.

“My trick to getting around these days is to try and schedule meetings somewhere in the center of the property so both parties only need to walk half the way.”

The Venetian was very much a game-changer for Macau. Hyped around the world not only for its size but also the incredible authenticity of its design – which provides a highly realistic recreation of the Italian city of Venice – it quickly became a hotspot for tourists keen to have their photo taken inside its cavernous walls.

More importantly, with 550,000 square feet of casino floor space – home to around 550 gaming tables and 1,500 slot machines – the Venetian paved the way for Cotai’s mega-resorts which by 2013 had helped Macau take in seven times more gaming revenue than the famous Las Vegas Strip!

Without question, Macau is now the heart of the global gaming world. And 10 years since it opened its doors for the first time, the Venetian remains Macau’s own beating heart.