Gaming revenue in Macau rose 26% in the first four months of the 2012, according to Macau's Gaming Inspection and Coordination Bureau. So it's not a surprise that the largest gaming and hospitality companies around the world are rushing to get a piece of the action. Las Vegas Sands (NYSE: LVS) currently sits ahead of the pack, but the competition is moving fast to close that gap.

Waiting for your number to be called
Wynn Resorts
(Nasdaq: WYNN) recently had its number called by Macau's government, which approved the Wynn Cotai project. This story has been a long time coming after Las Vegas Sands' Sheldon Adelson apparently wanted Wynn to go to Cotai back in 2002. At the time, Wynn hadn't even started building in Las Vegas and couldn't afford another project without any cash flow. In 2015 or 2016, when Wynn's project in Cotai will be completed, Las Vegas Sands will have a multi-year head start on Wynn.

Fellow competitor Melco Crown Entertainment (Nasdaq: MPEL) is also waiting for gaming table approval on a partially built project it recently took over, but Melco has had one casino up and running in Cotai since 2009. MGM Resorts (NYSE: MGM) and Asia's largest casino operator, SJM Holdings Ltd., are also still waiting for their chance at Cotai operations.

Time to partner up
Marriott International
(NYSE: MAR) recently announced a partnership up with Galaxy Entertainment to bring two luxury hotels to the Cotai Strip. The two hotels, the first-ever all-suite Ritz-Carlton and the world's largest JW Marriott, will be part of phase 2 of Galaxy Entertainment's Macau development. The hotels should be completed in 2015, which can't come soon enough for Marriott.

The hotelier needed this partnership even more than Galaxy; Marriott has found itself as the last man standing outside the most lucrative vacation destination in the world. Hilton, The Four Seasons, Starwood, and InterContinental Hotel Group's Holiday Inn are all on the Cotai strip after partnering with Las Vegas Sands. Marriott deciding to build the all-suite Ritz and largest JW isn't a surprise, either, considering Starwood's Sheraton Macau is not only the largest hotel in the city, but the company's largest hotel in the world. Marriott is arriving at the party late and needs to make a lasting impression when it arrives. This will put more pressure on not only the other hotel operators but also Las Vegas Sands.

Foolish take
Las Vegas Sands has a solid head start, but its frothy multiples may give investors reason for pause. Even after another great quarterly report recently announced by the company, because of the competition really heating up in Macau, I have to put Las Vegas Sands on hold until further notice. As a shareholder, I am fine with Sands holding steady for a while since the company now pays a dividend. If you're interesting in a few other companies worth holding onto with a solid dividend, check out this free report.

This article represents the opinion of the writer, who may disagree with the “official” recommendation position of a Motley Fool premium advisory service. We’re motley! Questioning an investing thesis -- even one of our own -- helps us all think critically about investing and make decisions that help us become smarter, happier, and richer.