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Wynn gambles on new mega-resort in Macau

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US tycoon Steve Wynn Monday opened a US$4 billion mega-resort in Macau - complete with giant lake, musical fountains and cable cars - as the Chinese casino enclave battles to turn around its fortunes.

[MACAO] US tycoon Steve Wynn Monday opened a US$4 billion mega-resort in Macau - complete with giant lake, musical fountains and cable cars - as the Chinese casino enclave battles to turn around its fortunes.

At a ceremony attended by 1,000 guests, he launched the Wynn Palace: six million square feet (560,000 square metres) of entertainment with a central casino, more than 50 shops, 13 restaurants and 1,700 hotel rooms starting at under US$300.

Wynn is gambling on Macau even as it faces a downturn following a corruption crackdown by China's President Xi Jinping and a slowdown in the Chinese economy.

The clampdown has driven away many high-rollers from the mainland who propped up VIP tables in Macau, the only part of China where it is legal to gamble. Mass market tourism is now touted as the enclave's potential saviour.

With authorities under pressure from Beijing to diversify from gambling - and a three percent cap on annual gaming table growth across Macau - the semi-autonomous Chinese territory is suffering a third year of declining gaming revenues.

But speaking to reporters last week Wynn, 74, was bullish about the project, insisting that gambling is no longer the main focus.

"My reality is the experience people get in this building - when that is perfect, the money takes care of itself," he said.

Recent resort openings by Galaxy and Studio City have upped the non-casino element, including everything from river rapids to a figure of eight ferris wheel.

In October Las Vegas Sands is due to open another mega-resort, La Parisian, in Macau, featuring a half-scale Eiffel Tower.

Analysts remain cautious over whether the mass appeal of the new mega resorts can really make up for the high-rollers.

Macau overtook Las Vegas as the world's casino capital in terms of revenue after the sector was opened to foreign competition in 2002, and still leads its US counterpart despite the downturn.

Wynn believes the new formula works. "We've got something for everybody here," he said.

AFP