LAS VEGAS, Feb. 20 — Zhu Yu was not the least perturbed that faux Italian frescoes — rather than Asian silk screens — decorated the ceiling of the Venetian Resort Hotel Casino hallway where he and his family watched on Saturday as a 25-foot-long red-and-yellow dragon shimmied through a traditional Chinese New Year dance. (来源：英语杂志 http://www.EnglishCN.com)
“Oh, it’s nothing like what we did when I was a boy in Taipei, but it’s still very exciting,” Mr. Zhu, 49, said over the din of drumbeats as the dragon paused to send good luck in the direction of those inside the high-limit baccarat room. His three daughters, all younger than 10, stood mesmerized in front of his wife.
It was the Zhu family’s fourth straight year ushering in Chinese New Year in Las Vegas instead of in their home city, San Francisco. Their stop at the Venetian’s dragon dance was followed by a visit to a similar one in the pirate’s cove outside the Treasure Island Hotel and Casino on Sunday, the first day of the Year of the Pig, and another dragon dance Monday, this one at the Roman-themed Caesars Palace.
“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, a 15-day celebration that is set by a lunar calendar and that usually falls in late January or early February, 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.
The city’s tourism board does not keep statistics on the event’s economic impact, but executives with Las Vegas Sands Inc., which owns the Venetian, say more money is bet during the two-week period than at any other time during the year. “The Chinese New Year is longer than anything,” said the company’s president and chief operating officer, William P. Weidner, “and we see much higher per-player action.”
J. Terrence Lanni, chief executive of MGM Mirage, the city’s largest gambling company with nine properties on the Strip, including the Bellagio and Mirage resorts, said that for his company, the first weekend of Chinese New Year was the second-biggest betting weekend of the year, ahead of the Super Bowl and behind only the conventional New Year’s holiday. (Gamblers in Las Vegas wagered $93 million on last month’s Super Bowl, the Nevada Gaming Control Board reported.)
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, said Richard Chen, the executive chef at the Wing Lei restaurant in the Wynn Las Vegas resort, which has imported abalone at $2,226 a pound and bird’s nest at $1,600 a pound for this year’s festivities.
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. “Everything here are multiples of six or eight, because those are the lucky numbers. Even the number of koi we have in our pond are multiples of eight. We want to maintain as much positive energy for luck.”
Such nods to Asian culture came as hard-learned lessons for Las Vegas properties, which now employ feng shui masters to advise on design and building plans. When the MGM Grand HotelsCasino opened in 1993, patrons walked through a main entrance built to resemble the mouth of a mammoth lion, MGM’s longtime corporate symbol. This incensed Asian gamblers, who complained — and stayed away — because the notion of walking into the mouth of a beast is considered unlucky. The company spent millions removing the lion and reconfiguring the entrance, said Alan Feldman, a spokesman for MGM Mirage.
“Everyone has stories about things like that,” Mr. Feldman said. “Over at the Mirage we built a high-limit gaming area that looked like a library. The Chinese word for book sounds like lose so books have an unlucky connotation. Those books were gone within the hour.”