While Macau stayed ahead of Las Vegas in gambling revenues overall, the industry has been hard hit by a combination of the rough economy and tightened travel restrictions by China this year. With half of the administrative region’s gaming customers coming from mainland China, the restrictions on travel definitely put a damper on profits this year with revenues dropping for the first time in its history. Many are seeing the opening of the City of Dreams as a sign that things are finally turning around.

The casino resort opened with fireworks, a ribbon-cutting ceremony, party complete with celebrities galore and a stage show. The City of Dreams is operated by Lawrence Ho and James Packer, both high in the hierarchy of the gaming industry, so the experience is definitely behind this latest addition to the Cotai Strip. Many industry analysts are saying that this latest opening is a sign of a turnaround of fortunes for the region.

The City of Dreams has already cost $2.4 billion dollars and parts of the complex have not even begun construction yet. So far there is of course a huge casino floor (420,000 sq. feet) but there is much to entertain other than gaming, too. There is a Hard Rock Hotel for the more ordinary gamblers as well as the Crown Towers, luxurious accommodations for the casino high rollers. There will be another hotel, a Grand Hyatt, opening later this year. The resort boasts a domed theater where you can see a multimedia show of Chinese mythology as well as a permanent show by Franco Dragone, former director of the Cirque du Soleil. When completed, the complex will have 175, 000 of retail space with luxury boutiques and specialty shops.

Down the strip lies some stark reminders of how bad times can be with the unfinished skeletons of several hotels that had to be put on hold when the Las Vegas Sands came up against the tight credit markets. Now the Shangri-La, Sheraton, Traders and St. Regis all stand testament to the fact that gambling is not recession-proof, after all. With the City of Dreams opening, even on a scaled back basis, the hopes of Macau gambling concerns are on the rise again.

“Though the tourism sector is facing challenges, the opening of City of Dreams not only adds energy to the Macau tourism industry but also shows the confidence of investors in Macau as a great destination, ” said Joao Manual Costa Antunes, director of the Macao Government Tourist Office.

“The fact that the City of Dreams has had the confidence to go ahead and get on with it when everyone else is having second thoughts is very good,” said Warren Rooke, director of a local investment advisory company, Bay Property, “It gives a tremendous boost.”

Even competitors seem to be welcoming the newest casino resort to the Cotai Strip. Steve Jacobs, president of Las Vegas Sands Macau, said that he has a warm welcome for the newcomer. He sees the newest addition as a further attraction that will help all the businesses on the Cotai Strip.

“One of the keys to a successful tourist destination is to assemble the critical mass needed to make it both unique and compelling, and this is an important next step in fulfilling the vision of creating Macau as a leading integrated resort location in Asia,” said Jacobs.