BET­TING ON THE CHI­NESE

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.

China Daily (USA) - - IN DEPTH - Con­tact the writer at amyhe@chi­nadai­lyusa.com

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.

Unique pur­pose

Goldsmith said that Lucky Dragon’s main pur­pose — ser­vic­ing Asian clien­tele and specif­i­cally Chi­nese — is unique in Las Ve­gas, and its bou­tique size al­lows them to go af­ter a spe­cific mar­ket seg­ment with more ded­i­cated re­sources.

“I think they’re go­ing to be an ex­am­ple for a lot of prop­er­ties that say, ‘Wow, this is how they’re do­ing it, and this is what we need in or­der to be suc­cess­ful,’” Goldsmith said.

The Lucky Dragon will face com­pe­ti­tion for Asian tourists from the Re­sorts World of Las Ve­gas, which will be­gin con­struc­tion at the end of this year and is sched­uled to open in 2019.

With an es­ti­mated bud­get of $4 bil­lion, the Asianthemed Re­sorts World will have more than 3,000 ho­tel rooms in mul­ti­ple tow­ers, con­ven­tion space, movie the­atres, a 150,000-square-foot casino and a 30,000-square-foot lake as part of a Chi­nese gar­den span­ning the grounds.

It is be­ing de­vel­oped by the Malaysia-based Gent­ing Group, which op­er­ates a Re­sorts World there and also has re­sorts in the Philip­pines, Sin­ga­pore, the UK and New York.

Lucky Dragon’s de­vel­oper is a pri­vately held en­tity known as the Las Ve­gas Eco­nomic Im­pact Re­gional Cen­ter. It was built with EB-5 funds, an in­vest­ment pro­gram that grants per­ma­nent US res­i­dency visas to those who cre­ate at least 10 full-time jobs and in­vests be­tween $500,000 to $1 mil­lion.

Vast ma­jor­ity

Though EB-5 in­vestors in city projects come from Europe, the Mid­dle East and Asia, the vast ma­jor­ity of the funds are from Chi­nese sources, said Ja­coby, who is also the COO of the Las Ve­gas Eco­nomic Im­pact Re­gional Cen­ter (LVEIRC), which helps sup­port EB-5 fundrais­ing for other projects in Las Ve­gas, such as the Down­town Grand Ho­tel and Casino.

Ja­coby said that while Las Ve­gas’ casi­nos re­al­ize the im­por­tance of Asian guests, they don’t make up their core busi­ness or cater to them.

“All of the casi­nos here on the strip are largely built by Amer­i­cans for white Amer­i­cans, frankly, with some that have small sub-sec­tions for Asian play­ers. Some may have a sep­a­rate Bac­carat room; some may have a Chi­nese restau­rant. One or two places even have two. But that’s about it,” he said.

“The ma­jor­ity of these places are built for Black­jack and slot playing, Amer­i­cans who want to go to the pub or go to a night­club, which isn’t tra­di­tion­ally what Asian guests like to do when they’re here.’’

Ja­coby said Lucky Dragon isn’t go­ing af­ter “the top, top tier guy fly­ing in by pri­vate jet from Beijing or Shang­hai who is prob­a­bly go­ing to the Wynn or the Vene­tian (casi­nos), or two or three other places in town’’.

“If you’re the 1 per­cent, pri­vate- jet type of cus­tomer, you’ll get the au­then­tic ex­pe­ri­ence that other play­ers don’t get be­cause you qual­ify for it and you’re pay­ing for it. So at Lucky Dragon, we take the cul­tural touches of the top 1 per­cent — lan­guage, food, gen­eral ser­vice stan­dards — and pro­vide that to them as a base prod­uct of what’s in our DNA for ev­ery­one, and kind of cater to the rest of the 99 per­cent in the way they’re be­ing ig­nored,” he said.

In ad­di­tion to putting money into the EB-5 visa pro­gram for projects in Las Ve­gas, Chi­nese also are in­vest­ing more heav­ily in other Las Ve­gas real es­tate, in­clud­ing sec­ond homes and homes for their chil­dren study­ing in Ne­vada.

At­trac­tive prices

Betty Chan, a Las Ve­gas Real­tor who works with Chi­nese fam­i­lies, said her clients of­ten are at­tracted to the low home prices in the city. “They see that the prices here are so good and the rental in­comes they can get are so much bet­ter than what they can get in China, so they in­vest,” she said.

She sells houses that range from $200,000 to $300,000, and many are two-story prop­er­ties in high-end com­mu­ni­ties that she said the Chi­nese fa­vor.

Chan said she re­cently worked with a Chi­nese fam­ily that owns a ho­tel chain in China, who needed a house for their son who is go­ing to a ho­tel man­age­ment school in Las Ve­gas.

Randy Char is the pres­i­dent and owner of Char Lux­ury Real Es­tate, a lux­ury bou­tique bro­ker­age that spe­cial­izes in high-end lux­ury clients. He is sell­ing 64 units in the new Sky Las Ve­gas, a 45-story lux­ury con­do­minium on Las Ve­gas Boule­vard be­tween the Lucky Dragon and the up­com­ing Re­sorts World.

Savvy in­vestors

The units go for $300 a square foot, an at­trac­tive price for in­vestors com­pared to sim­i­lar prop­er­ties in New York that may fetch nearly $3,000 per square foot, $1,500 in San Fran­cisco, or $1,000 to $2,000 in Hawaii, ac­cord­ing to Char.

Sky Las Ve­gas rep­re­sents a chance for the Chi­nese to buy a piece of Las Ve­gas Boule­vard, where few prop­er­ties are avail­able for pur­chase, said Char.

“The one thing I do know about the Chi­nese is that they’re very smart in­vestors. They do a tremen­dous amount of re­search,” he added. “They are savvy, they go on the in­ter­net, they look at the macroe­co­nomic fac­tors. The mis­nomer that they’ll just buy any­thing is just not true.”

We haven’t sat down and said, ‘We want X num­ber’ — I just keep say­ing we want more.” Michael Goldsmith, vi­cepres­i­dent of in­ter­na­tional mar­ket­ing, the Las Ve­gas Con­ven­tion and Vis­i­tors Au­thor­ity

PRO­VIDED TO CHINA DAILY

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

The Las Ve­gas tourism in­dus­try is hop­ing to fill ho­tel rooms with Chi­nese vis­i­tors by of­fer­ing spe­cial ameni­ties.

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