Were Frank Sinatra to stroll into a certain corner of the Sands Macau today, he'd have a job believing he wasn't in Palm Springs or Las Vegas sometime in the early 1960s.
The Chairman of the Board would pull a gaudily checked stool up to the stone-clad bar, luxuriate in the rays from the built-in fireplace at the barman's back and hold court over a Scotch on the rocks below a line of Sputnik-inspired overhead lights. At least that's how the Sands' American architect Paul Steelman would imagine the scene at the Copa Steak House, Sinatra's nonchalance giving the belated Rat Pack wannabe his biggest imaginable compliment.
Sinatra would no doubt feel right at home in the rest of the place, too. Two years ago, when Stanley Ho lost his gambling monopoly in the enclave and deregulation threw open a side door to China to anyone with the wherewithal to pitch for a licence, a smitten Macau renewed its vows with the green baize and produced a shimmering progeny.
All that glisters may not be gold, but the Sands makes a fair fist of convincing incoming visitors otherwise, beaming across the water from a promontory that's a lusty dice throw from the SAR's ferry terminal.
The most ostentatious of Macau's temples of temptation, stealing the Lisboa's dubious thunder, the Sands, much of which opened in May, is a glory unto itself, as well as a homage in reflective glass to the Sands Las Vegas, where Sinatra and friends held their 'Summit at the Sands' shows of the 60s. Much of the story of the Macau incarnation should be told in numbers as well as words: a main casino floor featuring 277 table games, including baccarat, stud poker, blackjack and roulette, plus 519 slot machines; 15,000 square metres of casino space covered by 20-metre ceilings; two 18-metre high water walls and a window wall 80 metres long and 15 metres high; eight restaurants and bars, including the Copa and three other dedicated eateries (Cantonese, Shanghainese and Macanese). Then to set it all off there's a little something of which Louis XIV would have been proud: a 45-tonne, 36-metre long, 15-metre high, seven-metre wide chandelier radiating the light of 5,970 bulbs.
So much for the public areas; VIP guests have access to private-jet, limousine, helicopter and jetfoil services, and are discreetly greeted in the piece de resistance of the entire complex: the Paiza Club, described by an effusive Steelman as 'a club on steroids. It's bigger.' And so it is. The name Paiza was chosen (says Steelman proudly) because that was the term used for the proto-visa awarded by Kublai Khan to Marco Polo to guarantee safe passage through his empire. Visitors to the Paiza Club, which occupies a long, curving wing of the casino's chunky corner tower, don't have to battle through Mongol hordes, but instead are ushered to their own bar, wine-tasting room, cigar divan, karaoke rooms, business centre, dining room, spa, and manicure, pedicure and reflexology salon.
The necessary qualifications for VIP status are hazy, but Macau's highest rollers are assured of a place in the Paiza Club's assorted, opulent gaming lounges. So, too, will be guests staying in the Sands' hotel wing - opening soon, rates to be confirmed - comprising 51 luxurious suites, up to a whopping 740 square metres in size, with harbour views, his and hers bathrooms with saunas and all manner of electronic gadgets and gizmos.
The Sands Macau is in phos-phorescent company. Steelman, whose speciality is gaming houses of all descriptions, has designed or rebuilt such Nevada icons as Mirage Resorts, MGM Grand and the Golden Nugget. Little wonder then that the Copa Steak House is decorated with pictures of Sinatra and other giants of casino entertainment culture.
Another forthcoming feature is a full-sized theatre that will host glitzy, Vegas-style shows. And perhaps the odd crooner belting out, 'I lost it my way'.