History of Macau, Cotai, and the Cotai Strip
The territory of Macau (Macao) is one of China’s two Special Administrative Regions (Hong Kong is the other). Macau had been ruled by Portugal for over 300 years, until 1999 when the territory was handed over to China. Macau has a small population of only 500,000 people. As small as Macau’s population is however, the land in Macau is even smaller, which is why Macau is the second most densely populated country in the world.
Early Macau Gambling
Macau is the only area of China where gambling is legal. For the 65 years prior to 2002, Stanley Ho (through various companies) controlled the monopoly of casino and gambling activities in Macau. Under his monopoly, Ho built his casinos primarily for day trip visitors who would come to Macau solely to gamble. With no incentive for Ho to reinvest in his casinos, and little in the way of amenities or entertainment offerings, Macau was best known as a seedy, crime-ridden gambling den for the Chinese. Even so, with no other gambling alternative in communist China and with Macau’s proximity to Hong Kong, Macau had still become known as the “Monte Carlo of the Orient.”
The New Concessionaires
That began to change in 2002 however, when the Chinese government decided to end Ho’s monopoly and granted three (which became six) new gaming concessions (concessions are licenses). Additionally, the government took on a land reclamation project that expanded the size of tiny Macau by creating a new area of land called Cotai between Macau’s two islands, Coloane and Taipa (Co-Tai).
The new concessionaires promised the government that they would build Las Vegas style casino resorts that would go beyond just hotels and casinos. The new resorts they promised would expand Macau tourism beyond the daytrip customer and open Macau to new tourists from the rest of China, Asia, and the West. The concessionaires began planning new casino resorts across the Macau Peninsula, Taipa Island, the newly reclaimed area of Cotai, and Las Vegas Sands even promised that their master planned Cotai Strip would turn Macau into “Asia’s Las Vegas”.
The Cotai Casinos
In 2004, Las Vegas Sands ushered in a new era of Macau gambling with the extremely successful opening of its flashy Sands Macao casino on the Macau Peninsula. In 2006, Galaxy’s Grand Waldo became the first casino to open in Cotai, while Galaxy’s Starworld hotel casino along with the Wynn Macau also opened successfully later that year on the Macau Peninsula.
In 2007 the world’s attention was focused upon the opening of the new Cotai mega casino complexes and Las Vegas Sands’ Cotai Strip in 2007 and beyond.
The Cotai Area of Macau
Cotai is a newly formed area of land in Macau, China that was created by the Macau government through a land reclamation process. To develop Cotai, the Macau government essentially filled in the sea that separated Macau’s Coloane and Taipa Islands.
Since Macau is so densely populated, Cotai was built to aid the much congested Macau Peninsula and, most importantly, create a tourist spot in Macau where the Macau concessionaires could build billion dollar resort casinos. Cotai experienced its first casino opening when Galaxy Entertainment’s Grand Waldo casino opened its doors to Cotai and Macau.
The Cotai Strip is an area of Cotai that is in the process of being developed as Asia’s premier entertainment destination. The goal of the Cotai Strip is to give Macau and China its own Las Vegas Strip type of resort destination. The year 2007 was exciting for Macau and Cotai, as the Venetian Macau opened as the Cotai Strip’s first casino.
Across the water to Cotai’s west is China’s Hengqin Island. Hengqin Island is 3x the size of Macau but sparsely populated. Once again it is Las Vegas Sands that plans to build a residential and Meetings, Incentives, Conferences and Exhibitions (MICE) resort destination that the company believes will complement its Cotai Strip development.
The Cotai Strip
The Cotai Strip is a plot of land in Cotai, Macau that is being developed into Asia’s premier entertainment and MICE destination. The Cotai Strip is being modeled after the Las Vegas Strip and will be home to numerous hotels and casinos along with an extraordinary number of shopping, dining, and entertainment options. As the Cotai Strip’s main developer, LVS will own much of the infrastructure on the Cotai Strip. The company has contracted with many of the world’s leading hoteliers, retailers, and restaurateurs to create an unparalleled entertainment experience along the Cotai Strip.
In addition, other casino resorts like Macao Studio City, City of Dreams, and GalaxyWorld Resort have been developed by separate Macau concessionaires into must-see attractions.
The Cotai Strip Hotels, Casinos, and Resorts
Las Vegas Sands’ section of the Cotai Strip was parceled into eight separate sites, with each site having its own casino, hotel, and entertainment offerings. Since Macau requires casino operators to hold a gaming concession, LVS owns and manages most of the casino operations on the Cotai Strip, while the company’s hotel partners manage their respective Cotai hotels.
Their eight Cotai Strip casino sites consist of the following hotels and casinos:
- Las Vegas Sands’ The Venetian Macao, which was the first casino resort opened in the summer of 2007.
- The Four Seasons Hotel
- Far East Consortium with Dorsett, Cosmo, Holiday Inn and Intercontinental branded hotels
- eSun’s Macau Studio City project with Melco PBL as casino operator
- Shangri-La Hotels & Resorts with Shangri-La and Trader’s hotel brands
- Starwood Hotels & Resorts with Sheraton and St Regis hotel brands
- Hilton Hotels with Hilton and Conrad hotels brands
- Raffles and Fairmont hotel brands
In total, LVS’s section of the Cotai Strip includes:
- Over 19,000 hotel rooms
- Over 1.5 million square feet of casino space
- Over 3 million square feet of convention and expo space
- 25,000 seats for live entertainment
- 3 million square feet of shopping
- Over 4 million square feet of vacation suites
Several more resorts are currently being developed by non-LVS concessionaires. In addition, MGM Mirage and Wynn Resorts both have large Cotai strip Casino complexes in the area.