Betting on the Chinese

Updated: 2016-09-16 23:03

By Amy He(China Daily USA)

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Las Vegas is wagering that new Asian-themed casinos and hotels, along with direct air service from Beijing, will greatly increase the number of Chinese filling hotel rooms and Baccarat tables, reports Amy He from New York.

Betting on the Chinese

An artist’s rendering of the Lucky Dragon resort and casino, which will feature feng shui-designed gaming rooms to appeal to Chinese tourists. Provided to China Daily

Sin City is getting ready for an invasion of Chinese. It hopes.

Las Vegas, the gambling capital of the US that has long been popular with Chinese, is aiming to attract more of them with two new casinos and hotels catering to them and the first direct flights from Beijing.

“I can’t recall a time when one market segment has generated so much excitement,” said Michael Goldsmith, vice-president of international marketing at the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority. “Just the sheer numbers and the potential and the growth. There’s a tremendous amount of excitement in the community.”

China is the eighth-largest origin market for Las Vegas, with the number of visitors almost quadrupling in the last decade. There were approximately 206,000 in 2015, up from the estimated 188,000 in 2014. The country makes up 3.5 percent of all international visitors to the city, according to the tourist board’s most recent estimates.

“We haven’t sat down and said, ‘We want X number’ — I just keep saying we want more,” Goldsmith said, “as long as we continue to grow and pace along with what’s happening with the United States.”

Hainan Airlines is scheduled to start direct service three times a week to McCarran International Airport on Dec 2, one day before the opening of the Chinese-geared Lucky Dragon Casino and Hotel. The airport is about five miles south of downtown Las Vegas.

The city has long wanted a direct flight from China, and worked on getting Hainan’s service for approximately four years. Tourism officials expect that the new service will not only bolster visitors directly from China, but will allow the city to more accurately track how many Chinese visit.

“One of the challenges that we have is accurately counting our international visitors, especially from countries that don’t have direct air service. The thing that direct air service provides us with is much easier ability to quantify the visitors coming to Las Vegas,” Goldsmith said.

Devoted staff

How much importance Las Vegas puts on China is reflected by the city’s tourist board devoting a staff member solely to handle its China marketing effort. It also mirrors the “China welcome” programs that resorts and casinos on the Strip are offering to attract Chinese tourists.

The tourist board works with the University of Nevada Las Vegas’ hospitality program to develop seminars and education programs for resorts and retailers to make sure that they are China ready and culturally sensitive, stressing that financing China marketing efforts is a necessary investment, Goldsmith said.

“One of the things we found when we got together with our resort community was that some people said, ‘Wow that’s quite an investment. I didn’t realize we needed to do this. Maybe that’s not for us,’” Goldsmith said. “So what we thought was equally important is that the properties and attractions that are interested in appealing to the Chinese visitors realize that there’s an investment necessary to do that.”

The Lucky Dragon hotel and casino are set on three acres at the north end of the strip, with 200 hotel rooms. The 27,000-square-foot casino floor has 40 tables and 300 slot machines. Domestic Chinese gamblers “overwhelmingly” prefer to play Baccarat, so approximately 80 percent of the tables are Baccarat, with some Blackjack, pai gow, and roulette games, said Dave Jacoby, COO at Lucky Dragon.

The casino also will have several feng shui designed private gaming parlors, five Asian-inspired restaurants, a tea garden with a list of tea curated by Las Vegas’ only tea sommelier, and signage staff for guests from Asia and English-speaking guests.

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