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LAS VEGAS-The opening of the newest casino resort on the Las Vegas Strip hasn’t gone as hoped. Revelers partied in the Strip’s newest resort on New Year’s Eve as planned, but they had to go somewhere else to sleep.

Las Vegas Sands Corp. was aiming to open quietly on Dec. 20 in order to make sure everything was running smoothly in time for its grand opening celebration on Jan. 17. As Dec. 20 came and went without full approval from the county, however, Dec. 31 became the new goal.

In the end, all that was cleared to open on New Year’s Eve was the casino and other public spaces, such as the lobby and an atrium linking the $2.1-billion, 3,066-suite hotel with the adjacent Venetian resort, which also is owned by Las Vegas Sands. The doors opened at 7 p.m.

On Tuesday, a reservations agent for the company told GlobeSt.com that the first night the hotel expects to have guests staying in its rooms is Sunday, Jan. 6, not that any rooms are available. The first availability was Jan. 9, he said, for about $200 per night.

The $580-million, 450,000-sf retail piece of the Palazzo, meanwhile, has always been scheduled to open the day after the grand opening celebration. The day it opens, its ownership will be transferred to General Growth Properties.

GGP agreed to acquire the Barneys New York-anchored development back in May 2004, when Las Vegas Sands sold it the Venetian’s 407,000-sf Grand Canal Shoppes for $776 million. The ultimate sale price for the Palazzo retail is expected to be similar to that of the Venetian, according to SEC filings.

Not part of GGP’s acquisition is the entertainment piece of the development, which includes the 65,000-sf Canyon Ranch SpaClub; the Las Vegas version of New York’s 40/40 Club sports bar and lounge; a Lamborghini showroom, gift store and café; and the Broadway show Jersey Boys, which will take up residence in a new 1,650-seat theater in spring 2008.

When taken together, the Palazzo, the 4,027-suite Venetian and the contiguous 1.2-million-sf Sands Expo Center represents the largest hotel and convention complex in the world. In addition to the hotel tower, the retail and the entertainment pieces, and the Palazzo development also includes a high-rise luxury condo tower fronting the Strip that is under construction.

Slated for completion in fall 2009, the condo tower is rising on land owned by Steven Johnson, a low-key investor-developer from Scottsdale, AZ, and James Peterson of Albuquerque. The duo acquired the 0.64-acre former restaurant site in April 2003 for $32.5 million, which equates to more than $50 million per acre, by far the highest ever paid for land on the Las Vegas Strip.

Johnson told GlobeSt.com earlier this year that he and Peterson will continue to own the first two floors of the building, one of which will be leased to Walgreen’s. The air rights above the first two floors are controlled by Las Vegas Sands Corp. via lease and sale agreements.

Las Vegas Sands says it will cost $600 million to develop the condominium tower, $135 million more than it thought back in April. At that time, the company said it expected to spend $465 million developing the units but stood to make as much as $1.94 billion selling them off.

The Palazzo is the first of several major resorts scheduled to open in 2008 and 2009. Also due to open in early 2008 is Encore, Steve Wynn’s $2.2-billion follow-up to Wynn Las Vegas. The $2.8-billion Fontainebleau hotel-casino is due to open in late 2008. MGM Mirage’s $7.8-billion CityCenter development is due to open in late 2009. Boyd Gaming Corp.’s $4.8 billion Echelon development is scheduled to open in 2010.

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