GM Grand Macau, half-owned by MGM Mirage and half by Pansy Ho, daughter of the original Macau casino mogul Stanley Ho, joins its rivals in trying to attract the hordes of Chinese gamblers from across the border. The waterfront resort threw open its doors to thousands of people, who were let into the casino in batches as fireworks lit up the night sky.
Security officials tried to keep control as punters jostled to get into the resort, which features 600 rooms and a casino with 385 gaming tables, 890 slot machines and 16 private gaming salons.
More than a thousand guests earlier stepped onto the red carpets laid at the entrance next to a huge golden lion statue. They included Bond girl Michelle Yeoh, Macau leader Edmund Ho, Stanley Ho and rival US casino tycoon Steve Wynn.
The 1.25 billion-dollar resort held a glitzy opening ceremony at its centrepiece - a huge Grand Praca atrium whose design was inspired by the Central train station in Lisbon, a nod to the city's Portuguese heritage.
MGM Mirage chief executive Terry Lanni and Pansy Ho officiated at the ceremony, which included a lion dance, a light and dance show and a firework display. Singer Sarah Brightman performed at an exclusive gala dinner.
Pansy Ho said she hoped the new development would be an economic boost to the territory and said she believed her "respectful" father, whose company owns nearly two-thirds of the city's casinos, would be able to face any challenges amid fierce competition.
Lanni said MGM Mirage would look for more opportunities to tap the booming casino industry in the former Portuguese colony, whose gaming revenues overtook the famous Las Vegas Strip last year. "It's our first step into Macau and it's not going to be our last. We are looking for other opportunities," he said. "We are going to be part of Macau for many, many decades to come," he added.
Lanni said he hoped MGM Grand Macau would be able to lure high rollers away from its competitors in the area, such as its next-door-neighbour Wynn Macau and Australian mogul James Packer's Crown Macau.
In the first nine months of 2007, Macau pulled in gaming revenues of us$ 7.5 billion, more than the entire 2006 take of us$ 7.3 billion. The figure was a huge increase from us$ 2.80 billion in 2002. The opening of MGM Grand Macau means that all six of Macau's gaming concessions are finally in place after the southern city ended Stanley Ho's 40-year monopoly in 2001.
The liberalization has opened the floodgates to billions of dollars of foreign investment into the enclave of 530,000 people. The number of casinos has increased to 28 from 11 in 2002. However, Lanni is unconcerned by fears that Macau could end up with too many gambling venues. Macau welcomed 22 million visitors in 2006 - 86 percent from Hong Kong and nearby mainland China.
With travelers expected to surge to 26 million by the end of 2007, he sees growing opportunities. He said in 31 years in the business, not one year had gone by without people asking: "Aren't you building one room too many and/or one casino too many in Las Vegas? So far we haven't and I guess you really don't know until you build that one room too many," he added.