March 7, 2007
Written by C.N.
Did you have a happy Lunar/Chinese New Year celebration a few weeks ago? Chances are that you did if you were in Las Vegas because as the New York Times reports, Las Vegas has been pulling out all the stops to incorporate the Lunar/Chinese New Year into its attractions, with the goal of attracting high-spending, big-roller Asian and Asian American gamblers:
“This is a Las Vegas version of Chinese New Year,” Mr. Zhu said. “It’s its own thing, but we love it.” So do casino executives. Chinese New Year . . . has become one of the city’s most profitable events, drawing thousands of Asian and Asian-American visitors and hundreds of millions of their dollars each year. Executives with Las Vegas Sands Inc., say more money is bet during the two-week period than at any other time during the year.
Casinos drape enormous banners with New Year’s greetings in Chinese across their porte-cocheres and add tables for baccarat and pai gow poker, two games favored by Asian gamblers. They hold parties where managers hand invited guests red envelopes stuffed with money or special gambling chips adorned with the animal symbol of the year. At Caesars Palace, Celine Dion and Elton John are given a few days off so that Jacky Cheung, the Canto-pop sensation, can hold forth in the 4,100-seat Colosseum.
Most Chinese restaurants on the Strip stay open longer and add traditional New Year’s dishes or rename some regular ones with lucky or upbeat words. It is not unusual for a family to spend more than $20,000 for a Chinese New Year dinner. . . . At the Bellagio, the theme of the 14,000-square-foot Conservatory is changed only five times a year, and Chinese New Year is one of those times. The current display features live tangerine trees, a 45-foot-tall pagoda, and a mechanical pig with a moving eyes, tail and snout.
“You’ll see a lot of Chinese lanterns hanging in groups of six because multiples of six are lucky numbers,” said the Conservatory manager, Sharon Hatcher. . . . “The highest quality players will get whatever they want. The Chinese are the highest and best quality players in the world, so they’ll have preference. We don’t care how tall you are, how short you are, how fat you are, what color you are. Green is the most important color.”
The article goes on to describe how many of the major casinos have changed their operations to accommodate and attract Asian/Asian American patrons, many of them based on traditional Asian and Chinese beliefs about feng shui and luck/superstition.
On the one hand, I am very glad to see that major American corporations are actively courting Asian/Asian Americans as customers and have in fact significantly changed many aspects of their particular practices to suit Asian/Asian American tastes. It does go a long way toward institutionalizing Asian Americans as as a legitimate consumer group with significant purchasing power.
On the other hand, as this site’s article on Gambling, Addiction, and Asian Culture describes, many Asians and Asian Americans have a very serious gambling addiction problem that has led to financial disaster, families torn apart, and even death. In that context, it’s not surprising to know that gambling establishments of all sizes have been more actively courting Asians and Asian Americans because they know that’s where the money is, as the last line in the quoted material above shows.
Ultimately, I see this development as another example of the complicated nature of Asian American assimilation — it’s nice to be wanted and incorporated into mainstream aspects of American society and commerce, but why did they have to pick this particular aspect of Asian/Asian American culture that can have many serious negative consequences for our community as the focal point?
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Suggested reference: Le, C.N. . "Lunar New Year, Las Vegas Style" Asian-Nation: The Landscape of Asian America. <http://www.asian-nation.org/headlines/2007/03/lunar-new-year-las-vegas-style/> ().
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