Being Chinese-American, I’ve always noticed that family of Chinese friends of the family had an affinity for gambling. Not just a passing fancy, but a pattern of behavior that spanned innocuous light gambling to addiction.
Chinese Culture and Gambling
In my extended family, I have several relatives that play Mah Jong four times a week where an winnings/losings after an eight hour day of playing was often fewer than $10. On the other side, I’ve heard stories of relatives that worked 12 hour days at their restaurants, took those profits and lost them at the casino… several times.
This is something that casinos have known for a long time, they’re well aware that there’s no gamblers like Chinese and to a certain extent, Chinese-Americans. Though you’ll find Chinese playing blackjack, pai gow and roulette, Chinese’s game of choice tends to be baccarat which happens to be the most lucrative game in Las Vegas. And because Chinese gamblers are willing to bet big, win big and lose big, they have long been offered special treatment from casinos. Casinos have long catered to the Chinese by providing exclusive Chinese gaming salons, changed their menus to serve that community, held parties and celebrations for Chinese holidays (such as Lunar New Year) and flown in performers Taiwan, Beijing and Hong Kong.
Enter the Lucky Dragon Hotel & Casino
It’s one thing to attempt to draw Chinese patrons to your casino a few times a year with themes, pop singers. special menus and cultural events, but it’s another to open an entire casino and hotel where everything is built and designed for Chinese visitors.
That’s where Las Vegas’ new casino is trying to differentiate themselves; The Lucky Dragon Hotel & Casino is a resort and boutique hotel that is completely Asian-themed down to every detail. From the colors, Feng Shui, Chinese-speaking staff, no mention of the unlucky number “4” (which translates to “death” in Cantonese”) to the Chinese-language signs and red rose-colored decor, it might be almost too Asian, if there’s such a thing.
“No General Tso’s or egg rolls here,” bragged David Jacoby, the Chief Operating Officer for the Asian-themed casino.
The new casino will also feature the latest gaming technologies from online games, digital offers and behind-the-scene solutions. The Lucky Dragon will rely on a system that helps manage player and floor communication as well as using six unique “bonusing applications” which integrates a progressive bonus to table games – a first for the Las Vegas Strip. On top of that, you’ll find more than a dozen digital table games throughout the Resort featuring popular games like baccarat and roulette.
Investors of the property have clearly put a lot of resources into new technology so that they stand out from the crowded strip. They’ll not only be the first Las Vegas casino, but the first in North America, to provide off-the-floor, 24 hour system monitoring solution that optimizes performance so to decrease the time between play. This was implemented based on technology that’s quite popular in many gaming markets across Asia.
Hit or Stay?
In theory, the concept and idea of The Lucky Dragon sounds like it would be a smashing success, but are the investors overestimating the value Asian gamblers put on atmosphere and language? What if it’s about incentives and brand?
Not only will they have to answer that question, but the casino is up against the increasing popularity of online casinos and digital gaming both of which are trying to increasingly simulate a live casino experience. Why leave your apartment when you can bet from the comfort of your own home, desktop or laptop that feels like you’re actually at the casino? It’s possible with new, burgeoning technologies like virtual reality, artificial intelligence and lifelike graphics. This is especially true as our everyday realities become more ingrained with our mobile phones.
Though I’m not sure how much I can support targeting middle-class Chinese gamblers, Chinese Americans as well as the broader Asian American community to gamble more, I do appreciate their recognizing the community even if it’s for the money and not the culture.
For all these questions of impact and whether they’ll draw Asian gamblers, only time will tell.