Business of Chinese New Year

Its pageantry goes unnoticed in the ubiquitous, cheeky national ad campaigns for Las Vegas.

But in the biggest casinos on the Strip, no detail from dining to decor is overlooked when it comes to Chinese New Year, an event that brings hundreds of millions of dollars to Nevada.

The ancient holiday is a marketing fulcrum for campaigns aimed at several of Las Vegas’ most valuable niche markets, from Asian whales to dedicated low-stakes gamblers from Southern California to newly minted middle-class Chinese vacationers.

“You’re talking about the ultimate event of the year,” said Al Faccinto, president of international marketing for MGM Mirage, the largest gambling resort company in Nevada. “You need to be on top of your game whether there are 10 people coming in or 1,000.”

Although the actual holiday occurs Monday, Faccinto and his staff of more than 100 have been going full tilt for weeks.

They’ve cooked up an elaborate party at Bellagio for nearly 3,000 customers and an ornate display in the casino’s conservatory, and they’ve organized elaborate Chinese lion dances at MGM Grand, Mirage, Mandalay Bay and, of course, Bellagio.

Caesars Palace, which began marketing the holiday as early as 1975, is also decked out and opened two meticulously planned, authentic restaurants with mainland Chinese cuisine in time for the 2009 holiday, which kicks off the Year of the Ox.

The Venetian, Palazzo, Wynn Las Vegas and Encore, the latter of which was designed largely with upscale Asian gamblers in mind, also bang the gong heavily for the event.

Among the best indicators of the rise of Chinese New Year in Las Vegas is baccarat play.

The amount of the baccarat drop during the month of Chinese New Year has increased from $455.6 million in 1996 to more than $1 billion last year.

But like the rise of Las Vegas, the rise of Chinese New Year into an exchange of more than $1 billion between gamblers and Nevada casinos coincided with a global economic bubble that finally burst in 2008.

It’s too early to assess the fallout, but it will likely mean less Asian wealth pouring into Las Vegas, at least for now.

“Overall, baccarat’s performance has become very important” to the Las Vegas economy, said Jeremy Aguero of the economics research firm Applied Analysis. “Some of that growth was real, some of it probably wasn’t real.”

There is evidence some cash that supported the gambling boom in the Chinese enclave of Macau came from sources of wealth that evaporated when the bubble burst.

One study by Zeng Zhonglu, a professor at Macau Polytechnic Institute, showed a disturbing trend of Macau high rollers, or whales, ending up dead, imprisoned or broke.

The study, reported this month in an Australian newspaper as well as the New York Times, followed 99 big-time gamblers from mainland China.

It found many were government officials, managers of state-connected companies or cashiers at state businesses.

As such they had ready access to cash during the years-long economic boom and used much of it to gamble in Macau casinos.

The study reported the government officials researchers tracked lost an average of $2.7 million each.

There was also human fallout. At least 15 of the gamblers were executed, several more committed suicide and others were embroiled in scandal.

“It is no different than what Madoff did or what these other (corrupt American) investors did as well,” said Timothy Fong, co-director of the gambling studies program at University of California, Los Angeles.

Fong, who didn’t contribute to the Macau study, said it is likely some of the Asian whales who helped fuel the Las Vegas baccarat boom will be undone by the global economic crisis.

He described one such gambler he knows who had the means to gamble huge sums of money for years before finally succumbing to losses.

The evaporation of global wealth could hasten the fiscal demise of others, Fong said.

“There probably are a high number of them who fit criteria for pathological gambling, but it is unclear how much harm it has done to their lives,” Fong said. “All those years up until then the gambling wasn’t causing harm.”

Still, Fong acknowledges Chinese New Year was associated with gambling long before Las Vegas casinos caught on to the holiday or developed sophisticated Asian marketing programs.

And he doesn’t blame the casinos for cultivating Asian clientele, whether its in mainland China or suburban Southern California.

“I wouldn’t call that predatory, I would call that marketing to communities that have demands for their services,” Fong said.

Leaders of major Las Vegas casinos are also quick to point out their Chinese New Year — and other Asian marketing platforms — cover much more than gambling.

“Las Vegas today compared to 10 years ago has so much credibility as a great restaurant destination, a great entertainment destination,” said John Unwin, general manager of Caesars Palace.

Unwin said two new restaurants at Caesars, Beijing Noodle No. 9 and Sea Harbour, are among a small number of restaurants nationally that offer a high level of authentic, mainland Chinese cuisine.

“We spend a fair amount of time in Asia, and China, visiting business partners and customers,” Unwin said. “We believe our new offerings are the most authentic in the market and, in fact, some of the most authentic in the country.”

The diversity of Asian outreach from Las Vegas and the sheer number of potential new Asian customers means that, despite the current recession, Chinese New Year will remain one of Nevada’s most critical business holidays, said Aguero, who believes the local economy will recede to a level of productivity similar to 2004.

“Not only are we dependent on the nation’s ups and downs, we are more dependent on the global economy than we ever have been,” he said. “That trend is here to stay.”

Contact reporter Benjamin Spillman at or 702-477-3861.

Metro Asst. Sheriff Brett Zimmerman on Aug. 8 officer-involved shooting
Metropolitan Police Department Assistant Sheriff Brett Zimmerman met with media Monday to discuss the details of the 14th officer-involved shooting of the year. (Madelyn Reese/ Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Clark County School Board president Deanna Wright on travel expenses
Clark County School Board President Deanna Wright says she followed proper expense protocol in trip to Florida last year.
Matt Kelly Elementary School hosted its third annual Back-to-School Red Carpet Program
Matt Kelly Elementary School hosted its third annual Back-to-School Red Carpet Program where community and business leaders joined to welcome students back with an inspirational welcome. Bizuayehu Tesfaye/Las Vegas Review-Journal @bizutesfaye
Shooting leaves 1 dead in southeast valley
A man was found fatally shot in the doorway of a squatter apartment after an argument ended in gunfire on Sunday night. Officers responded about 10:30 p.m. to the Silver Pines apartments and discovered the man in a breezeway in one of the buildings. The wounded man died at the scene, despite the efforts of another person, who tried to administer medical aid. Witnesses saw a man and a woman flee the scene, but were unable to give police a clear description.
North Las Vegas unveils new school crosswalk
North Las Vegas councilman Isaac Barron talks about the new school crosswalk in front of CP Squires Elementary School Monday, August 6, 2018. (Marcus Villagran/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @brokejournalist
LVMPD Briefing on OIS #13
Assistant Sheriff Tim Kelly held a press conference to discuss details of the 13th officer-involved-shoot for the department in 2018. Video shows the moments before the suspect was shot. The shooting, which has been edited out, occurred as the suspect lunged at an officer outside the apartment. (Madelyn Reese/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Sedan and semitrailer collide in south Las Vegas
An early Wednesday morning crash has left one person in critical condition. A sedan and semitrailer collided around 4 a.m. at the corner of Spencer Street and Serene Avenue. Police do not believe impairment is a factor in the crash. Spencer has been blocked off north of Serene while police continue their investigation.
Cybersecurity Professionals Flock to Las Vegas for Black Hat
Black Hat USA, the largest annual cybersecurity conference, is expecting a record 17,000 attendees during its six-day run at the Mandalay Bay Convention Center this week. One thing attendees have in mind is making sure they don't get hacked while they're there. (Madelyn Reese/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Police chase ends with suspects captured in east Las Vegas
An early Tuesday morning chase ended with a car crash in an east Las Vegas neighborhood. Police were pursuing the vehicle, which they say was involved in robberies in Las Vegas and North Las Vegas, when the driver crashed at Owens and Statz Street. A man was taken into custody. A woman was ejected from a vehicle and taken to a hospital with non-life threatening injuries. The intersection at Mojave Road and Owens Avenue was shut down while police officers searched for the suspect and investigated. The intersection will remain closed for most of the morning.
Record number participate in Touro University Nevada White Coat Ceremony
Three hundred sixty-five medical students received their white coats during the Touro University Nevada White Coat Ceremony at the M Resort in Henderson Monday. The ceremony was developed to honor students in osteopathic medicine, physician assistant studies, nursing, occupational therapy and physical therapy as they accept the professional responsibilities inherent in their relationship with patients. (K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Stop for school buses, urges CCSD
Clark County School District Police Department hold a mock traffic stop at Centennial High School in Las Vegas, Monday, Aug. 6, 2018. (Marcus Villagran/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @brokejournalist
Work Begins at Las Vegas Community Healing Garden
Crews moved the wooden Remembrance Wall at the Las Vegas Community Healing Garden on South Casino Center Boulevard Monday. Construction on a permanent wall is set to begin within the week. (Madelyn Reese/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @MadelynGReese
Man wounded outside Cottages apartment
Las Vegas police don't have a motive after a man was shot early Monday morning outside a northwest valley apartment. The man's mother called police to say her son had been shot. She called police around 1:15 a.m. Other people were inside the apartment but no one else was injured. Police are still looking for the shooter.
Ride new Interstate 11 segment in one minute
Interstate 11 opens to the public Thursday, providing sweeping views of Lake Mead, art deco-style bridges and a mural illustrating the construction of Hoover Dam. (K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Miss El Tiempo 2019
Miss Teen El Tiempo and Miss El Tiempo 2019 were crowned at Sam's Town Saturday, August 4, 2018. (Marcus Villagran/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @brokejournalist
Las Vegas Woman Raises Awareness for Anxiety and Depression
Cassi Davis was diagnosed with anxiety and depression after the birth of her second child. After seeking help and support, she felt that there wasn't enough for support for those living day in and day out for those with mood disorders. She created the Crush Run, set for Sept. 22, to raise money for the Anxiety and Depression Association of America and bring together a community of people who live with the same conditions she does. (Madelyn Reese/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
North Las Vegas marks the opening of Tropical Parkway connector
The City of North Las Vegas, Nevada Department of Transportation and other partners celebrated the opening of the Tropical Parkway connector to Interstate 15 and the Las Vegas Beltway. The stretch of road will make access easier for distribution centers for Amazon, Sephora and other companies moving into an 1,100-acre industrial area rising near the Las Vegas Motor Speedway. (K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Bighorn sheep with West Temple in background at Zion National Park
A bighorn sheep walks through Zion National Park (National Park Service)
Adult Superstore location closes after 45 years
The Adult Superstore on Main Street has closed its doors for good after 45 years. The shop, which offered a multitude of adult toys, novelty items and movies, opened in 1973. Four other locations remain open. A note on the front door tells customers, “We can’t fully express our sorrow.” Adult Superstore was awarded Best of Las Vegas adult store by the Review-Journal in 2016 and 2017 .
Funeral held for Las Vegas corrections officer
Department of Public Safety Correctional Officer Kyle Eng died July 19 after a fight with an inmate at the Las Vegas Jail. A funeral was held for Eng at Canyon Ridge Christian Church Monday, July 30, 2018. (Marcus Villagran/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @brokejournalist
What Back-To-School Shopping Is Like For a CCSD Parent and Teacher
Laura LeBowsky, a CCSD special education teacher and mother of two, set out to shop for her children's supply lists at her local Walmart and Target. She was looking for deals to try to keep the total under $150, while also allowing Chloe, 8, and Brady, 6, some choice in what they wanted. (Madelyn Reese/ Las Vegas Review-Journal) @MadelynGReese
Businesses struggle to fill food manufacturing jobs
Chelten House is a family-owned food manufacturing company from New Jersey. They created a facility in Vegas five years ago and have struggled to find experienced workers in the area. (Marcus Villagran/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
LeBron heckler crosses line, altercation erupts
NBA superstar LeBron James, his wife, Savannah, and daughter Zhuri were at Liberty High School to watch Bronny James in action Wednesday night. But an unruly fan wearing a Michael Jordan Chicago Bulls jersey heckled the newest Los Angeles Laker. The man screamed at event security with LeBron and his family about 150 feet away. The man had to be restrained, triggering a brief altercation with security. James and his family were escorted out a side door along with Bronny's team, the North Coast Blue Chips. Event officials canceled the game between the Blue Chips and Nike Meanstreets.
Las Vegas Oddities Shop in Downtown Las Vegas
Las Vegas Oddities shop owner Vanessa VanAlstyne describes what's for sale in one of the weirder and wackier stores in Downtown Las Vegas. The store opened less than a year ago and carries everything from human bones to "rogue" taxidermy to Victorian death photography. (Madelyn Reese/ Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Trying to Staying Cool in the Las Vegas Heat
Cooling stations like Cambridge Recreation Center's opened across the Las Vegas Valley this week after the National Weather Service issued an excessive heat warning for the area. (Madelyn Reese/ Las Vegas Review-Journal)
MountainView's nurses protest outside hospital
MountainView Hospital's nurses affiliated with the Nevada chapter of the national Nurses Organizing Committee picketed outside MountainView Hospital Tuesday to urge the hospital to address high turnover rates and understaffing. (K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Excessive Heat Slams Las Vegas This Week
The National Weather Service issued an excessive heat warning for Tuesday, July 24 through Thursday, July 26 in Las Vegas. People are reminded to limit outdoor activity, drink plenty of water and wear sunscreen. Visit for more heat safety tips. (Madelyn Reese/ Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Burning car in Las Vegas Spaghetti Bowl
Firefighters extinguish a burning car on the Martin Luther King offramp from northbound Interstate 15 in the Spaghetti Bowl in Las Vegas on July 23, 2018.
Fire Department Issues Warning About Water Safety
Deputy Fire Chief Jeff Buchanan made a public safety announcement about water safety after Clark County Fire responded to 27 calls that were classified as drowning incidents between May 1 and July 20. Clark County Fire, Las Vegas Fire & Rescue and North Las Vegas Fire responded to 55 total calls during the same time. (Madelyn Reese/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Taxpayer-funded LVCVA boss negotiating exit pay despite criminal investigation
CEO Rossi Ralenkotter is the third-highest-paid public official in the state He has a pay and benefits package valued at $863,000 annually. Ralenkotter does not have an employment contract He announced his retirement in mid June, amid a scandal over airline gift cards LVCVA bought $90,000 in Southwest Airline gift cards between 2012 and 2017. Now auditors can’t account for more than $50,000 of the cards. Ralenkotter and his family used $16,207 in gift cards on 56 trips. Brig Lawson, the senior director of business partnerships, was responsible for buying and distributing the cards. He recently resigned. Ralenkotter's retirement settlement package could cost taxpayers thousands of dollars.
News Headlines
Local Spotlight
Add Event
Home Front Page Footer Listing
You May Like

You May Like