Hotel king adds a jewel to his crown

The integration of a casino mega-resort and the convention facility was complete and immediately proved to competitors and the world that there's more to Vegas than just vacations.

"He has been consistently somebody whose proven people wrong," said Celeste Brown, a gaming analyst for Morgan Stanley. Along with Mirage and Bellagio developer Steve Wynn, wynn Adelson has "really changed … the face of Las Vegas," Brown says.

Robert Forbuss, a consultant for Harrah's Entertainment het and a former chairman of the Las Vegas Chamber of Commerce, credits Adelson with "a spirit to get things done." But, says Forbuss, Adelson doesn't make many friends in the process. "He's just very aggressive. And sometimes that style of aggression rubs people wrong."

The Venetian and Palazzo are the only Strip properties without unions, a fact that irks folks like D. Taylor, the secretary-treasurer of the Culinary Workers Union Local 226. The union building's hallways are lined with dozens of photos of labor protests at the Venetian.

Taylor accused Adelson of intimidating his workers and pointed to lawsuits Adelson has filed against two Las Vegas journalists, as well as others who have criticized him. Adelson's workers "know he hates unions," Taylor says. "They know he's the third-richest guy in the country, and they know if you stand up for the union, you are not going to be around for very long."

Adelson disputes that, insisting his workers don't unionize because he treats them well. His company provides free car washes and on-site day care to employees, among other amenities, he notes.

A bold move into Macau

Adelson and Wynn were the only Las Vegas gamers to win licenses to build casinos in the former Portuguese colony of Macau when Beijing decided in 2001 to end the crime-riddled gambling monopoly of Hong Kong tycoon Stanley Ho. But the Adelson and Wynn approaches couldn't be more different, with Adelson racing to open the casino-only Sands Macaoby 2004 to start cashing in on the Asian appetite for gambling. Wynn has trodden more carefully. The Sands Macao exceeded expectations, making it easier for Adelson to finance a string of nearby resort-casinos known as the Cotai Strip, reclaimed land where Adelson envisions what he's trademarked as "Asia's Las Vegas."

Cotai's anchor is the massive, 5-month-old Venetian Macao, a $1.8 billion, 3,000-room resort with more than 200 stores, a 1.2-million-square-foot convention center and the world's largest casino. Wynn, meanwhile, opened the exclusive 600-room Wynn Macau resort in 2006, and has said in published interviews that he believes Adelson's enthusiasm for Cotai is premature.

For his part, Adelson finds Wynn's view baffling, pointing to the fact that a third of the world's population is within a five-hour flight of Macau. The 3,000 rooms of the Venetian Macao brought the region up to just 8,500 rooms.

"I don't understand, with hundreds of millions of people in the area looking for a resort experience they've never had, how can it be that somebody questions whether or not there's enough market?" Adelson said.

Wynn's critique of the plan for Cotai is another point of contention in a legendary feud between men who once had a more friendly rivalry. Adelson said he was so impressed by Wynn's Mirage in 1989 that he asked Wynn to work with him on his own resorts, but Wynn declined.

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