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Macao, the Venice of the far east?

MIKE CLARKE/AFP/Getty Images

The city of Suzhou has long been known as the Venice of China because of its many canals, but its title is now being taken away by a "real" Venice of China—that is, the Venetian Macao Resort Hotel. The 10.5 million square foot complex, the largest building in China (and the second largest in the world, behind the Boeing plant outside Seattle), cost $2.4 billion to build. The casino-resort is the epitome of Macao's efforts to rebrand itself as a prime destination for millions of Asian tourists who want to spend a weekend gambling or catching a show in the southern Chinese city. Last year, Macao surpassed Las Vegas in gambling revenues, aided by casinos such as the Wynn and the Sands.

Now, with the opening of the Venetian Macao, American billionaire Sheldon Adelson is aiming to boost the cachet of the Cotai Strip to make it something akin to the Las Vegas strip. "Today is the beginning of what has been a dream of mine for some time to reproduce the capital of entertainment in Asia for Asians," he said at today's opening, which was packed with thousands of eager would-be gamblers.

To learn more about the madness in Macao and how gambling has gone global, read Raising the Stakes, a fascinating article by Joshua Kurlantzick that ran in the May/June issue of FP.

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