A Las Vegas casino operator unveiled plans Tuesday for a $5 billion to $10 billion project to turn a strip of reclaimed land in Macau into a huge resort patterned after its flagship Venetian property.

Las Vegas Sands Inc. is one of two new casino operators who will compete with Hong Kong tycoon Stanley Ho, who had held a four-decade monopoly on gambling in the former Portugese colony returned to China in 1999.

The resort imitating the Italian city of Venice will be on reclaimed land between Macau’s islands of Taipa and Coloane.

It will be modeled after the company’s Venetian hotel and resort in Las Vegas _ complete with imitation canals, gondolas and singing gondoliers.

Sheldon Adelson, company chairman, promised to bring Macau the”glamor and excitement of The Venetian Las Vegas, with the beauty of the baroque Venice”as he targets gamblers from throughout the Asia-Pacific region.

The initial phase of the development will focus on a mega-resort, The Venetian Macau, which is expected to be built in about three and a half years, the company said. No exact timetable was provided.

It will have 1,500 suites, a casino, spa, theaters and shopping mall, said Peter Barge, chief executive of Jones Lang LaSalle, the project’s real estate adviser.

In an attempt to get a quicker share of the gaming market, the company is building a smaller casino, Las Vegas Sands, on Macau’s main peninsula _ scheduled to open early next year.

The other newcomer to the Macau gaming scene will be Las Vegas mogul Steve Wynn.