Las Vegas Sands bets on new Cirque show in Macau

Thu May 29, 2008 9:04am EDT
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By John Ruwitch

MACAU (Reuters) - Las Vegas Sands Corp offered a peek on Thursday at a $150-million Cirque du Soleil show that will open at the Venetian Macau, the casino operator's latest high-stakes bet that it can get visitors to the Asian city to do more than gamble.

The dreamy "Zaia" features dancers and acrobats depicting a story of a girl who ventures into outer space in Asia's first permanent Cirque du Soleil installation. It has an initial contract of 10 years.

The gamble that "Zaia" will pull in the crowds is critical for the U.S. casino operator, which suffered an unexpected first-quarter net loss, partly because it lost a significant share of a VIP market made up of high-rollers who gamble upwards of $100,000 a visit.

In contrast with Las Vegas, Macau, a former Portuguese enclave, has a reputation for attracting visitors with little more than gambling on their minds.

High-stakes players have driven growth and are projected to contribute roughly 60 percent of gaming revenues this year.

Las Vegas Sands hopes to change that.

"Obviously, there's the big gamble here, no pun intended, which is that all of these gamblers that we know Macau can attract are also going to want to see shows and go to great restaurants and do things other than just gamble," said Mario D'amico, Senior Vice-President for Marketing for the Canada-based Cirque de Soleil.

A second Macau-based Cirque show, also in cooperation with Sands, is set to open across the street at a Sheraton under development next year.   Continued...

<p>Cirque du Soleil members perform during a media rehearsal of their new show "Zaia" at the Venetian Macao-Resort-Hotel in Macau May 29, 2008. REUTERS/Victor Fraile (CHINA)</p>