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Inside Gaming: Sands Opens $4.4B Macau Casino, MGM Imagines LV Strip Zip Lines, and More

Inside Gaming

This week, Inside Gaming looks at the grand opening of yet another mega resort in Macau, the last to open for at least three years. MGM is hoping to spice up Las Vegas Strip transit with a zip line between Luxor and Excalibur. And the Tropicana in Atlantic City is just hoping to keep workers coming to work amid a dispute with the city's biggest union over plans to terminate workers' pension plans.

$4.4 Billion Sands Cotai Central Opens After Three Year Delay

Sands China Ltd. launched its fourth casino in Macau on Wednesday, a $4.4 billion Himalayas-themed complex on the Cotai Strip. Gamblers began lining up five hours before the grand opening to get first crack at the casino's slots and gaming tables. Onlookers were treated to a traditional Chinese dragon dance and a high-wire tightrope act before Sands executives opened the doors for Sands Cotai Central's first day of business. The opening was delayed three years by the economic crisis and a worker shortage caused by Chinese government restrictions on importing foreign workers.

Only the first stage of the casino opened on Wednesday, though stage one by itself is far larger than any American casino. So far, Sands Cotai Central has 340 gaming tables and 40 VIP gaming rooms for high-rollers. An additional 200 tables will be added later in the year. The resort complex will include 5,800 hotel rooms when the attached Holiday Inn, Sheraton, and Conrad hotels are fully open in 2013. Sands also plans to build a fourth hotel tower costing between $500 million and $600 million but is awaiting Chinese government approval.

Sands Cotai Central is Macau's 35th casino. No new casinos will open until at least 2015. Shares of Las Vegas Sands' stock gained 3.58 percent on Wednesday, and the gains spread to Wynn Resorts Ltd. and MGM Resorts International. Analysts believe that the new mega-resort will draw new visitors to Macau and benefit the entire island.

Hear from CEO Sheldon Adelson at VegasInc.com, and read more about the economic impact of the opening in the Las Vegas Review-Journal.

MGM Plans Zip Line to Add Excitement to Strip Travel

For Vegas visitors bored with walking or cabbing around the Strip, there's always the monorail, but as its yawn-worthy financial performance shows, a monorail hasn't done much to excite Vegas tourists. MGM Resorts International hopes to save the day with a new high-flying idea: a series of zip lines to whisk travelers from Luxor to Excalibur.

This week, the Clark County Planning Commission put off a vote on MGM's proposal to allow the Federal Aviation Administration time to review it. Although the zip lines would not interfere with any flight paths because they are lower than the buildings around them, the agency still has to sign off on any low-flying plans so close to McCarran International Airport. Paperwork filed with the FAA said construction of the project could start as soon as May, but MGM spokeswoman Yvette Monet stressed that the idea is "a very tentative plan."

Why take the already convenient, free monorail that connects Luxor, Excalibur, and Mandalay Bay or the even easier moving walkway when you could strap yourself into a harness and fly down a high-tension wire? "This is intended as an attraction between Luxor and Excalibur for people who don't want to walk…or perhaps for folks who have decided that bungee jumping is a bit too rich for their tastes," said project consultant Greg Borgel. According to drawings submitted to the county in December, the lines would include distances over a quarter mile and drops of up to 30 feet.

In downtown Las Vegas, The Freemont Street Experience LLC installed a test zip-line attraction in October 2010 and recently disclosed that based on sales, they plan to build a more elaborate permanent version.

Read all about it at Casino City Times.

Thousands of Union Workers Picket Tropicana AC, Vow to Continue Pension Fight

Thousands of Atlantic City casino union members picketed outside the Tropicana Casino and Resort last Thursday to protest the casino's attempt to terminate workers' pension plans. The casino, owned by billionaire Carl Icahn, is ending the pension plan in favor of giving workers a direct cash payment.

Icahn's decision caused the breakdown of contract talks earlier in 2012. Tony Rodio, president of the Tropicana, explained that because Icahn bought the casino at a bankruptcy sale, he his not liable for the Tropicana's portion of a pension fund that is short at least $1.3 billion. The cash payments, Rodio says, go beyond what is required. "What we're doing, frankly, is even better for the employees."

But many workers aren't buying that. "Tony, we're not stupid!" said Joann Lardizzone, who has worked as a cocktail waitress for 28 years.

Bob McDevitt, president of the Local 54 of the Unite-HERE union, the largest among casino workers in Atlantic City, vows that the union will never let Tropicana get away with ending the pension plan. Citing the tenure of Tropicana owner Bill Yung, whose reign was terminated by state regulators due to the casino's poor management, McDevitt told the cheering crowd of protestors, "We ran one billionaire out of town — there's always room for another one on the last train out of town!" The Local 54 got its way in 2004 after crippling the Tropicana with a strike.

McDevitt also said that the union has already convinced six large groups to cancel or forgo bookings at the Tropicana and has received letters from more than 100 organized labor groups committing not to do business with the resort until the dispute is settled.

Rodio says the union's campaign "hurts the entire city." Atlantic City is trying to promote a new image and a new slogan, "Do AC." But Rodio says, "Local 54 is sending out the message 'Don't do AC.'" Who wins remains to be seen, but it doesn't look like either side is about to give up anytime soon.

The Las Vegas Review-Journal has more.

Follow PokerNews on Twitter for up-to-the-minute news.

*Photo courtesy of SandsCotaiCentral.com

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