Photos used with permission of Galaxy Entertainment Group Limited.

We don’t usually write on the weekends, but we will make an exception today for Galaxy Macau, because we can’t remember the last time we felt so excited about a new property opening in Macau.

Oh, wait, yes we can: when the Venetian opened almost four years ago. The newest addition to the Taipa Strip opens its doors officially only tomorrow at 5pm Macau time (GMT+0800). But media have been given a sneak peek these past two days, and we sneaked in with them. Yesterday was spent touring the property and listening to briefings; today was spent shaking off the cobwebs after a night around the pool deck and in the Macallan Bar.

We have been trying to come up with clever, witty descriptions of the place. Unfortunately, all we can produce is this: If we had to imagine a perfect product being brought to market in Macau right now, this would be very, very close to it. Let us count the ways.

1) It makes even the Venetian look tired in the gee-whiz stakes. First impressions are everything in this business, which is something the Venetian did brilliantly when it opened in August 2007 and City of Dreams did terribly in June 2009. Galaxy Macau knocks both of them out of the park the minute you roll up to the massive front doors. The chandeliers, the marble, the glass, the colors, the design — everything about the place reminds you of other properties in Macau, only bolder and better.

2) It has learned well from the success and failures of others. Everywhere you walk in this property, you see glimpses of its competitors. Wynn is in the music and the chairs. Grand Lisboa is in the pragmatic use of space and the chandeliers. Venetian is in the vast expanse of the gaming floor and the photo-op backdrops. City of Dreams is in the boulevards that house the restaurants and a few shops around the casino. But at each turn and in each instance, you get the feeling that the developers of this property had time on their hands, and they used it well. The entrance is more gob-smacking. The layout of the floors is more varied, both vertically and horizontally. The mixture of restaurants is cleverer. The size is large but not overwhelming or disorientating. Everything seems to have been put together in just the right portions and proportions. And there is new stuff where the owners clearly went out and asked their prospective customers what they like and dislike before deciding to do it.

3) It’s an integrated resort. There is so much variety under the roof here that we have to wonder why anyone would want to go elsewhere once they walk in the door. The ladies in kimonos at Okura. The pool villas at Banyan Tree. The Starworld-templated rooms at the Galaxy Hotel. The top deck, which looks like something right out of Bali rather than a few sandpits and pools in among airconditioning vents. The 52 restaurants, covering everything from McDonald’s to the finest of fine dining, which absolutely blow their neighbors away for choice and quality. The high-limit table and slot areas on the main gaming floor, which are raised a few feet above the rest in order to seem like exclusive alcoves. The Macallan Bar, which has a whisky list as long as the Lisboa’s wine directory. The China Rouge, a high-end nightclub that will open in another month or two. The 3D cineplex that will open later this year. And so on. There appears to be something for every segment of the market above the HK$100 minimum bet entry point.

4) It has just enough for now. There is no concert hall, no mammoth shopping mall, and no cavernous exhibition center. But there is a huge piece of land out back where such things could be built once the market has shown it can support them for more than three or four days a month. Now that the Venetian’s malls are doing so well, we are hearing noises about Phase 2 having a mall. As the Lui family has always made clear, since the very first time we interviewed Francis, this is not a build-in-and-they-will-come company. The US$2bn they spent on this property is about two-thirds of what COD cost and about half of what the Venetian-Four Seasons complex cost. We think it will do more in revenues than either of them in its first 12 months. (Ebitda remains to be seen.)

5) The VIP facilities will take Galaxy’s junket partners to a new level. Forget Paiza. Seriously. Sun City has a room right off the main lobby, with an ascending staircase that leads to a well-signposted entrance. All the big operators in Macau are here, in rooms that were designed to help them gain face with the high-rollers who like to play at a variety of places. Unlike at Wynn, where the Dawei room looks like a Wynn room and the Dore room looks like a Wynn room, these rooms look like Neptune Galaxy rooms and Sun City Galaxy rooms and …. you get the drift. Some of them have private spa facilities next to the baccarat tables. Indeed, Macau has a new must-play attraction for anyone who considers themselves a big shot. Master designers might quibble with comparisons to Encore on the quality of finish in these rooms, but it’s close, and the luxury of the accommodation at Banyan Tree and Okura will be hard to beat for its Cotai rivals.

Who to credit for this achievement? Well, there were obviously a lot of hands that went into creating this product. But the name that keeps coming up is that of the boss. To call Francis Lui a hard-driving micro-manager would be an understatement, and we can certainly say from first-hand experience that the man seems tireless. But what clearly stands out in this product, as compared to StarWorld, is that he has come a long way in evolving his own understanding of what an integrated resort needs in order to be successful in this market. From the color of the table tops to the shape of the walkways through the main floor, his fingerprints are everywhere, staff assure us. We find it easy to believe. Asia’s Steve Wynn? It might well be a moniker that sticks after this resort opens. And he’s just getting started on the biggest single piece of real estate in Cotai. Stay tuned for more. Used with permission & copyright