05/12/2006 12:00AM

Vegas: Second to one?


When you live in Las Vegas, you get all kinds of friends, family, and acquaintances calling to let you know they are coming to your little corner of the world. Closely following their burning interest to "see you" when they are in town comes a request for any help finding lodging for the visit.

And their timing is always impeccable. It seems they always want to come on New Year's Eve, Memorial Day, Labor Day, or Thanksgiving, or on those big weekends of sports, such as the Super Bowl, NCAA tournament, or Kentucky Derby. The mega-resort building craze has yet to provide sufficient lodging in Las Vegas for those hot-ticket weekends. Even with 133,186 rooms in town, the town was full to the rafters for Kentucky Derby weekend.

Could it be that the United Arab Emirates city of Dubai is having the same lodging problems during its World Cup weekend?

Las Vegas is home of the three largest hotels in the world, but we are about to be surpassed by Dubai. As reported in the Las Vegas Sun this week, government officials in Dubai announced plans to build a 6,500-room hotel complex, named the Asia Asia Hotel, which would make it the largest in the world. The project is expected to be completed in 2010. No doubt this will make it easier for those coming into town and seeking lodging during the Dubai World Cup weekends of the future. Lucky Dubai residents.

For now, Las Vegas boasts 15 of the 20 largest hotels, including 7 of the top 10, according to the website about.com. MGM Grand, with its 5,034 rooms, tops the list as the world's largest. The Luxor complex sits just 626 rooms short of its parent company's property, at 4,408 rooms. Mandalay Bay - also an MGM Mirage hotel - is third with 4,332 rooms.

Malaysia's First World Hotel Genting Highlands has 4,300 rooms, making it the largest non-Las Vegas complex on the list. After fifth-place Ambassador City Jomtien in Thailand with 4,210 rooms, numbers 6 through 10 are all in Las Vegas: the Venetian (4,027 rooms), Excalibur (3,991), Bellagio (3,933), Circus-Circus (3,770), and the Flamingo (3,586) round out the top 10.

With a multitude of mega-complexes on the drawing boards and sprouting from the ground, there is certainly no real threat to top Las Vegas in total room inventory. While the report suggests Dubai will increase its inventory by 29,000 rooms during the time it takes to complete Asia Asia, it will take Las Vegas half that time to increase its inventory by another 37,937 rooms, for a total of more than 171,000 rooms.

And with most recent reports indicating records for both visitor volume and gaming activities, Las Vegas remains the hot spot in the desert. For the third straight month this year, figures released by the Nevada Gaming Control Board report that Nevada casinos in March surpassed the $1 billion mark in gaming winnings. Nevada casinos have enjoyed winnings of over $1 billion for seven of the past 12 months.

Yet the world's largest hotel will be in Dubai - which doesn't even have gambling.

Ralph Siraco is turf editor for the Las Vegas Sun and host of the Race Day Las Vegas radio show.