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New Lisbon Casino is world-class tourist attraction

IT WAS controversial and criticised

from the start, but no matter what your

opinion about the new Lisbon Casino

is, it certainly is glamorous. Protagonists

argue that it is providing 2,500

people with jobs, will generate millions

in taxes for the government, will

breathe new life into the Parque das

Nações (former Expo site) and is a

world-class tourist attraction that will

encourage the cruise line brigade to

part with their euros.

Those who were against the project

believe it will encourage the already cashstrapped

Portuguese to fritter away their

hard-earned money and fall into debt,

while others argue that now is not the time

for such a frivolous attraction.

The Lisbon Casino was launched last

week in a fanfare of publicity and a blaze

of razzmatazz. The red carpet was unrolled

from 7pm onwards to welcome the Portuguese

jet set, politicians and local dignitaries

to a champagne and canapé cocktail

reception in a specially constructed

tent, complete with ice sculptures, a mobile

disco and a troupe of clowns.

Then, in filed the good and the great:

the Mayor of Lisbon, Dr. Carmona

Rodrigues, the Minister of the Economy,

Manuel Pinho, billionaire Macanese property

and leisure developer, Stanley Ho

(who is also behind the Lisbon Casino

project), TV comedian Herman José,

Portugal Telecom’s Miguel Horta e Costa,

British model Fiona, Portuguese catwalk

queen Naima, TV news presenter

Manuela Moura Guedes and her media

mogul husband José Eduardo Moniz,

crooning fadista Carlos do Carmo, to

name but a few of the 1,300 guests.

Shortly after 8.30pm, Stanley Ho

joined Manuel Pinho on the dais to press

the button that would illuminate the façade

of the casino. Then followed a 10-minute

speech and a fabulous firework display,

which lit up the night sky to a fanfare of

triumphant music.

Taking a tour around the inside of the new

casino, it soon becomes clear that the gaming

establishment is designed to attract the

wider general public. There are rows of slot

machines from five to 50 cents to suit all

tastes and pockets, while the bright electric

blue, blood red and mauve lighting inside

has an air of Las Vegas about it, which is

gaudy, lurid but hypnotising all the same.

For shows, concerts and plays, a smart

silver and black auditorium has been built,

and bright, informal leisure areas nearer

the entrance have been set up, where

New Lisbon Casino is world-class

tourist attraction Report and pictures by Chris Graeme

gamesters are met by teams of smartly

dressed staff in shocking pink suits.

The evening wasn’t short on gimmicks

to draw in the crowds once the doors were

formally opened from 9.30pm. Inside, the

games room figures, dressed up from Star

Wars, greeted the gamblers, while the

prize accumulated at the slot machines

had reached a 25,000 jackpot 10 minutes

after opening. There were figure dancers

engaging in various high altitude stunts

from high wires and ropes, while the draw

of the night was a comical light operetta

performance from Natalie Choquette.

Stanley Ho, who posed graciously for

the photographers, as he sat at the slot

machines, commented: “I’ve never

played or spent money in casinos.”

When asked if he thought it was responsible

to open up another casino during

Portugal’s worst economic crisis since

the 1980s, he replied: “There’s no economic

crisis. I know this because the

Prime Minister has told me so.”