Cotai Strip: A Tour Of Macau’s Answer To Las Vegas

venetian macau sunset

The Cotai Strip is a stretch of land located in the Chinese enclave of Macau. It’s packed full of casinos, hotels and entertainment venues. It was originally named by the US-owned Las Vegas Sands Corporation, which has played a key role in the growth of Macau over the years.

How It Started…

You just can’t underestimate how important the Cotai Strip has become to gambling in Macau. It’s almost unthinkable to imagine how the region’s gambling revenues would have turned out without the influence of the venues positioned along the strip.

map showing macau casinos and mainland china

It was formed when the stretch of land became part of a huge land reclamation project undertaken by the Macau government. The idea was to link the islands of Coloane and Taipa and the process began back in 1984.

The vision right from the start was to replicate the layout of the Las Vegas Strip.

The Creation of Casinos

In 2004 after decades of construction work, the first casino on the strip opened. It was the Las Vegas Sands Corporation-owned Sands Macao. The project was a massive gamble for the casino operator but it opened the floodgates for a new era of lucrative gambling revenues in Asia.

Galaxy Entertainment Group soon followed in the footsteps of Las Vegas Sands Corporation by opening their impressive Grand Waldo Hotel (now known as Broadway Macau) in 2006.

Just one year later, Las Vegas Sands Corporation opened their second property. Their Venetian Macao resort has turned out to be arguably the most iconic casino along the Cotai Strip.

It was a smart business move too. The revenues of the Macau-based properties owned by Las Vegas Sands Corporation eclipsed the revenues of those located in the US. Over $8 billion of the $9 billion revenues generated by Sands-owned properties came from their Macau-based properties.

The year 2009 saw the City of Dreams opened by Melco PBL Holdings. It boldly positioned itself directly opposite the popular Venetian Macao. This was a symbolic move showing how much faith the owners had in the area becoming a successful gambling destination in its own right.

Cotai: Coming Of Age

highway in macau

A number of other casinos have been opened along the Cotai Strip including The Plaza Macao, Galaxy Macau, Sands Cotai Central, Studio City Macau and Wynn Palace. Each of these properties boasts a range of entertainment venues, hotels, restaurants and bars.

The Venetian Macao is just as renowned for its Cotai Arena, Cotai Expo and The Venetian Theatre as it is for its gambling.

The Plaza Macao is also home to the Four Seasons Hotel Macao with 360 luxury suites. City of Dreams offers an array of stunning venues such as Hard Rock Hotel which is a venue in its own right in Las Vegas.

Properties such as Galaxy Macau and Sands Cotai Central are more like miniature cities. Galaxy Macau posted forecast-beating revenues of $809 million for the year 2016 which was a year-on-year increase of 51% . It has Hotel Okura Macau, Banyan Tree Macau, The Ritz-Carlton Macau, and JW Marriott Hotel within its premises. This is even before you consider The Grand Resort Deck, UA Galaxy Cinemas, and the Promenade Shops.

Sands Cotai Central is just as mind-blowing with the 3,896 suite Sheraton Macao Hotel and 1,224 suite Holiday Inn Macao.

Macau isn’t only about casinos though. There are loads of non-gambling related things to do and see – top quality food and drink has become a big pull for tourists visiting the Cotai Strip.

There’s culture too. We asked Lonely Planet’s Macau expert what he would do in Cotai if he only had one day to spend there. He told us. “Take in the casino attractions, such as a ride on a gondola on a canal inside the Venetian, a turn on the figure-eight-shaped Ferris wheel at Hollywood-themed Studio City (with views over Cotai), topped off with tickets to see the perennially popular aquatic acrobat show, House of Dancing Water.”

Sands Cotai hotel Macau
Image Credit: Martin Chua

It is also a destination where the night life goes beyond gambling. The Climax night club in the Wynn Palace is the place to be seen in Macau. The Broadway Theatre recreates the razzle and dazzle of its New York namesake. The Boulevard at Studio City is also not to be missed.

The Future?

There are huge plans in the pipeline for the Cotai Strip.

Macau gambling revenues are back on the rise after years of decreases in revenues. Confidence in the Cotai Strip is a prime reason for that.

MGM Resorts International are planning to open their first casino venue in the area when the MGM Cotai opens later this year.

XIII Holdings are also set to open the Louis XIII. SJM Holdings are  looking to invade the Cotai Strip with their Lisboa Palace venue too. The planned Macau Theme Park and Resort development has also set tongues wagging on the strip.