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multi-level stores, dramatic views of the surrounding waterfront and the ever- present (for an LV Sands retail development) canals and gondolas (and let’s not forget Singapore’s first ice rink—complete with plastic ice). The 1.25 million square feet of meeting space is designed to make Singapore

the Asian capital for meetings, conventions and special events. The two executives in charge of opening the Singapore property weren’t there

at the start, although LVS COO Michael Leven was on the company’s board of directors at the time, before being brought into management by Chairman Sheldon Adelson to replace the departed William Weidner. Tom Arasi, the president of Marina Bay Sands, was brought in from the

hotel industry less than two years ago, and helped put together a team of sea- soned gaming executives led by gaming veteran Andrew MacDonald, the senior vice president of gaming for the property. Even though the opening date for Marina Bay Sands has been pushed back

several times (it held a soft opening on April 27), Arasi says it’s still remarkable that such a complicated project was completed in the time it was. “This has been completed astoundingly fast for a project of this nature,” he

says. “When you look at the conception of an idea, design, financing, bidding out the construction, and building something like this, it’s amazingly fast.” Leven waxes poetic when he envisions the completed facility. “From the Eiffel Tower, the pyramids, the Taj Mahal, Sydney Opera

House… this building is going to be equally iconic,” he says. “The SkyPark alone you can’t find anywhere on the planet. The design that (principal architect) Safdie did on the three towers is breathtaking. And when you add in all the pub- lic space, when it’s finally opened and running, when you see it really ‘alive,’ it will be spectacular.”

It hasn’t always been easy, however. Las Vegas Sands had to defeat some formi-

dable opponents during the RFP phase: Harrah’s Entertainment, MGM Mirage Wynn Resorts, Kerzner International and others. Some of the stipulations insisted upon by the Singapore government have been somewhat onerous. And an undis- covered underwater seawall complicated the foundation process so much that it threw construction behind in some cases by as much as a year. And finally, the glob- al economic meltdown threatened to put the company out of business just a year ago. Leven says that economic strain had nothing to do with Singapore, however. “The financial problems of this company were not caused by Singapore,” he

insists. “We have good debt there. I think they were more created by what we did in Macau in ’05 and ’06 where we spent $2.6 billion with no financing. If we didn’t do that, no one would have said anything about our financial shape.” Although a little disappointed in losing the race to open first, Leven says he

believes that will not be too advantageous for Genting’s Resorts World Sentosa, which opened on February 14. “The first mover advantage, if there is one, is focused on the local resident who

paid the S$2,000 (annual entry fee of US$70 for Singapore citizens and perma- nent residents). They’re going to continue to go there because they paid for it.” Arasi downplays any advantage that might come to Resorts World as a result

of opening first. “We are very comfortable with our position,” he says. “We think it’s going to

be a big market and our experience is that you’re only ready when you’re ready. And when we’re ready, we’ll open. “Resorts World will undoubtedly do a fine job, but we feel that there is plenty

of business for everyone. We feel very good about the product offering we have and our ability to differentiate ourselves and get great acceptance both in the VIP and mass market segments. The reality is if we had opened up a couple of months before them it wouldn’t have been a big advantage, but long term, no one will remember who opened first.” Unlike Macau, where the VIP market dominates by producing more than 70

percent of the gaming revenue, Singapore seems to be attracting more of the mass market. The first two months of operations at Resorts World have anecdotally demonstrated the strength of the mass market. “Let’s talk about the mass market and the slot play,” says Leven, “which every-

one agrees has been spectacular so far. If we do what Genting is allegedly doing, we could make our numbers on slot machines alone.” Arasi believes that the “locals” market—which includes Singapore, Malaysia

and Indonesia—will be strong. “We think there are different geographies that allow us to draw a locals mar-

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