Asian Gambling Big In The USA

August 23, 2006

Internet companies are investing huge sums in addressing the Asian market…but the land casinos have a booming market in the United States.

Associated Press carried a fascinating article on the strength of the US Asian domestic market for gambling at land casinos.

Every day, Foxwoods and nearby rival Mohegan Sun combine to send more than 100 buses to predominantly Asian neighborhoods in Boston and New York, the piece reports. The number of buses doubles on Chinese New Year, and on Thanksgiving and Christmas, which many Asians don’t celebrate.

Foxwoods, the biggest casino in the world based on gambling floor space, estimates that at least one-third of its 40 000 customers each day are Asian. Mohegan Sun says Asian spending makes up a fifth of its business and has increased 12 percent during the first half of this year alone.

The number of Asians in the United States increased by 17 percent between 2000 and 2004, the fastest growth of any ethnic group during that period, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. And few industries have catered to the Asian boom with as much cultural competency as the $75 billion U.S. land gaming industry.

In 2000, Foxwoods, which is run by the Mashantucket Pequot tribe, hired a vice president specifically in charge of Asian marketing. In 2005, Mohegan Sun, owned by the Mohegan tribe, hired an international marketing executive who would target the Asian demographic.

The two casinos seek to attract and retain Asian customers, mainly of Chinese, Vietnamese, Cambodian and Korean descent, by placing ads in ethnic media, providing plenty of restaurants at its casinos that serve Asian food, and sponsoring community activities such as the Boston Dragon Boat Festival, the Toronto Asian Beauty Pageant, and the Southeast Asian Water Festival in Lowell, Mass.

“Our Asian blood loves to feel the luck,” said Ernie Wu, director of Asian marketing at Foxwoods. “We call it entertainment, we don’t say it’s ‘gambling.”‘

The buses are key to the marketing strategy.

Foxwoods customers pay $10 for round-trip bus fare, but the casino throws in a $12 food coupon and a $40 gambling coupon at no additional cost. Mohegan Sun customers also pay $10 for bus tickets, and receive a $15 meal voucher as well as a $20 betting coupon.

Gambling doesn’t require language skills or a high upfront cost, and casinos including Foxwoods have set up dozens of tables featuring favorite Asian games such as Pai Gow poker, Pai Gow dominoes, Sic Bo and Baccarat.

Next to the popular noodle bar, the entrance to the massive “Asian Pit” at Foxwoods is adorned with carved wooden panels. One of the liveliest sections of the massive casino, the room is teeming with Asian customers. Those who aren’t seated at gaming tables mill about the room to get a look at the hottest action.

And when customers aren’t gambling, there are Asian concerts and shows to keep them occupied. Mohegan Sun has brought superstar singers A-Mei from Taiwan and Sandy Lam from Hong Kong to perform at its 10,000-seat arena.

Asians make up roughly a fifth of the 13,000-person staff at Foxwoods. Wu says dealers know not to touch Asian customers on the shoulder, a sign of bad luck. They don’t say the number four, which in Chinese, sounds similar to the word for death. The casino also has omitted the No. 4 seat at Pai Gow and Baccarat tables, which have numbered seats.

The model of attracting and retaining Asian customers is being watched carefully as casinos reach out to other untapped markets.

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