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Dealer Cai Qilin, center, works on Mini Baccarat at an Asian gambling section in Foxwoods Resort Casino in Mashantucket, Conn., Thursday, June 29, 2006. (AP Photo)

MASHANTUCKET, Connecticut — It’s a little after noon, and a crowd has started to gather in Boston’s Chinatown. Some are reading the Sing Tao Daily or Ming Pao Daily News. Others clutch plastic bags filled with snacks. All look up whenever the deep roar of an engine sounds like it’s coming their way.

Ip Kachuang and two of his friends share a smoke while they wait. It’s a routine Ip knows well. Five days a week, he makes the four-hour round-trip bus ride to Foxwoods Resort Casino in Connecticut.

The biggest casino in the world based on gambling floor space, Foxwoods estimates that at least one-third of its 40,000 customers per day are Asian.

“It’s a happy place,” Ip said in Mandarin Chinese. “It’s very easy and relaxing, and it’s open all the time.”

Ip represents a group of customers aggressively being courted by casinos around America.

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 (?59.22 billion) U.S. gaming industry.

Every day, Foxwoods and nearby rival Mohegan Sun combined send more than 100 buses to predominantly Asian neighborhoods in Boston and New York. The number of buses doubles on Chinese New Year, and on Thanksgiving and Christmas.

The two casinos target Asian customers with ads in ethnic media and sponsoring community activities such as the Boston Dragon Boat Festival, the Toronto Asian Beauty Pageant, and the Southeast Asian Water Festival in Lowell, Massachusetts.

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.

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.

“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.”‘

Buses are key to the marketing strategy. Riders pay $10 for round trip fare, and Foxwoods throws in a $12 food coupon and a $40 gambling coupon, while Mohegan Sun gives them a $15 meal voucher and a $20 betting coupon.

On a recent weekday afternoon, one Foxwoods bus picked up Ip, his two friends, and more than 40 other passengers from Boston’s Chinatown. During the 160-kilometer journey, some watched a Hong Kong soap opera on television sets throughout the bus. Most caught up on sleep.

Some say the casinos are filling a void in entertainment options for low-income Asian immigrants.

Gambling does not 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 one of the liveliest sections of the massive casino. And when customers are not 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.

“This is a way of demonstrating the casino’s sensitivity and understanding of the market,” said Joe Lam, president of L3, an advertising agency that works with Mohegan Sun.

Zheng Yuhua emigrated from southern China to New York City eight years ago. She works six days a week, 11 hours a day, preparing takeout orders at a restaurant in Chinatown. On her day off, she takes one of the Foxwoods buses.

“All of our friends come once or twice a week,” Zheng said, speaking Mandarin as she rested near the noodle bar with her brother-in-law. “Life in America is hard. Our English isn’t good. Even if we have time off, there’s nowhere else to go. We don’t have cars.”

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 do not 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.

Mohegan Sun’s senior marketing vice president, Anthony Patrone, said the casino is interested in expanding its Latino marketing. On July 21, Mohegan Sun hosted a boxing match that was broadcast on the Spanish-language channel Telefutura.

Some say the casinos are going too far to market to people who are vulnerable to excessive gambling.

“If casinos didn’t market to Asians, they’d market to someone else. It’s just that right now, the market is Asians,” said Dr. Tim Fong, co-director of UCLA’s Gambling Studies Program.

But those marketing strategies to attract customers are not without concerns. Fong, who began studying gambling addiction among Asian-Americans in 2005, called it a “subtle epidemic.”

“It’s out there, it’s insidious, slowly damaging families,” Fong said.

Foxwoods and Mohegan Sun both have taken voluntary steps, such as training employees to read signs of addictive behavior and referring problem gamblers to psychiatrists.

Steve Karoul, who until earlier this month was vice president of casino marketing at Foxwoods and has spent 30 years in the casino business, said Asians aren’t significantly affected by compulsive gambling.

“Honestly, we find it’s not as prevalent in the Asian community as it is in the non-Asian community,” said Karoul, who worked in several Asian countries. “Of all the markets, I would say it’s the least affected by problem gaming. Gaming is part of the culture, but problem gaming is not widespread.”

Back in the Asian Pit, Ip Kachuang decided to take a break after three hours at the Baccarat tables, his favorite game at Foxwoods. He said he had not won much money yet, but he was still in good spirits.

“It’s fun,” he said, “as long as you don’t gamble big.” (AP)

August 1, 2006

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August 24, 2006

 

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Nguoi Viet, Youth Commentary, Nadia Nguyen, Aug 09, 2006

More than 51,000 nail salons, mostly owned and operated by Vietnamese immigrants, vie for customers in California, according to Nails magazine. The following is a story of one young woman whose family owns a nail salon.

When I was 9, I painted my nails blue. The polish was a shiny hue that my older sister bought at the drugstore, a little tempting container that I found in the bathroom drawer.

Ba, my father, noticed my nail color at dinner one evening and told me to wash it off. I did. Ironically, almost 10 years later, Ba would lend his fingertips to Bubble Bath pink, Apricotcha Cheatin’ orange, and I’m Really Not A Waitress red as my mother, Má, prepared for her manicurist license examination.

Our story begins like countless others: with my parents, on a boat in 1975, headed toward an American refugee camp. The United States, the land of opportunity, perhaps fully uncovered itself in 2003 with an open space behind In-N-Out Burger in a strip mall in Southern California’s posh Sherman Oaks.

Ba and Má certainly had forces working against them. Sherman Oaks already was teeming with nail salons. My mom had another full-time job. But it was their ambition that drove them.

Choosing a name for their nail venture was almost as difficult as naming their four daughters. When ideas came to us at random hours of the night, we browsed the Internet to make sure what we picked wasn’t taken. We played with words (shop or shoppe?) and concepts. In the end, we settled on Pink ‘N White Nails & Spa, a cute euphemism for a type of acrylic nails made with two different powders, something that I knew nothing about and for which my parents were still learning.

Paving Pink ‘N White’s image of “a pathway to serenity” was anything but serene. The months preceding the shop’s grand opening were a whirlwind of anticipation, anxiety and nonstop chaos. My sisters and I had school and work, so we couldn’t help out much. My father, the optimist, spent a lot of time sketching logos and imagining a peaceful haven where satisfied customers relaxed on Cloud Nine or lazy massage spa chairs. My mother, the realist, researched supplies and equipment and where to get the best deals. Dozens of trips to Ikea would be made.

I tagged along when I could. Arguments ensued over which chair would be the most comfortable to sit in while waiting for another more comfortable chair, which faucet handle would be easiest to use, and what should be worried about now or later, were highlights. Ba had appearance on the brain. Má had value on the brain. I was looking madly for the exit.

My father spent hours at the shop, driving all over town on errands, overseeing the assembly of spa chairs and tile flooring, and painting — a lot. The fluffy white clouds on baby blue backdrop would receive tons of compliments and only later would I learn Ba had designed them himself. My mother, who also works as a civil engineering drafting technician for the city of Van Nuys, would be at her office post until the afternoon. Ba would pick her up and drive her to the shop, where they toiled well into the evening. I hardly saw my parents anymore except for Ikea and dinner. We rarely talked “nail shop” at the dinner table. I liked it that way. Pink ‘N White Nails & Spa had its grand opening in June 2003, just in time for a slew of graduations, proms and the sandal season.

The months following the big day were nonstop chaos, too.

My sisters and I cleaned every time we visited the shop on the weekends, shaking our heads and laughing at the busy (and very corny) decor. Wild plants stood at every corner. American flags adorned the front door, magazine stand and reception desk. My sister burned CDs with songs Ba requested; the customers did enjoy the tunes, as they stirred to the Latin pulse in their freshly scrubbed skin.

One day, the pipes broke and started spewing dirty water into the hair salon next door. Needless to say, the owner was not very happy with his new neighbors.

Another day, not too long ago, the water heater broke and we resorted to heating water in the microwave. It was a slow process but necessary so that customers would have a basin with warm liquid to soak their feet in. This has happened twice.

Business was sluggish after our grand opening promotion ended. My parents continued to adapt to their new investment. They tried to hire tho, or nail technicians, that they felt had good work ethics and would be assets to Pink ‘N White. My aunt, who came to this country about a year ago, immediately found a place at the shop. She had to go to school to obtain her license again, even though she was a nail technician in Viet Nam. Mom heard from a relative that adding two tablets of aspirin when washing a load of towels would keep them whiter longer. They decided to move the lunch room to make space for another waxing room and painted it baby pink.

Holidays are big at Pink ‘N White. For religious observances, we try to be culturally sensitive as we decorate the shop. In winter months, a little Christmas tree stands in the front and silver Hershey’s kisses are offered. Halloween sees a superfluous amount of sweets and sours. For Mother’s Day, my mom likes to give roses to all women. We can’t forget about the men in our lives, either; fathers enjoy a special discount on their special day. Flowers are arranged almost daily, bringing coziness and charm to the salon.

We learn by trial and error, by ear. We often have different views about where things should go and how things should be done, but we compromise, and eventually, things fall into place.

And now, more than three years later, I’m proud to say that Pink N’ White Nails & Spa has found its niche on Ventura Boulevard., and in the nail salon world. In a sense, I’ve always been proud.

My parents have made cleanliness and customer service a top priority. Competition is fierce in this industry, especially with strict sanitation laws and new nail salons popping up everywhere. Just across the street, a luxurious, higher-priced salon has been there for years. In the other direction, yet another new salon just opened. At Pink ‘N White, a manicure is $10, a spa pedicure is $18. Many customers opt for a mani and pedi combination, costing $26.

It’s not just the nail gurus who are weary about sanitation standards. There is always fear of infection, and some customers even bring their own tools. When everything is said and done, it’s the comfort the client feels at the hands of the technician and how well they do their craft.

Debbie Mink of Pacific Palisades, Calif., is a first-time customer who decided to “stop and give it a try.”

“This might be a new place for me,” she says, admiring her freshly manicured fingers.

She adds, referring to her technician, “He was a true gentleman.”

Though we tried advertising and special promotions for a while, much of our business has been through first time walk-ins (who notice the salon after going to In-N-Out for a bite) and through word of mouth. Luckily, many are now loyal.

“My daughter came and she loved what you did,” says Anne Cohen, also a first-timer, popping in in July.

Though some of our customers from three years ago have now drifted, my parents continue to push forward and find ways to improve the salon. Ba has gotten used to his managerial role at Pink ‘N White, a role that at first seems non-traditional for a man. The staff is a diverse crowd, though they are all Vietnamese. Another one of my aunts, who used to have her own shop, works at ours now. A woman who my mom used to work for when she first got her manicurist license also joined our team. Then there’s a younger woman in her mid-20s, who speaks little English, and three male technicians as well. In all, we employ about 10.

Má jumps into her nail technician role when we get busy, usually on weekends. There’s a chart hanging in the back of the shop that divides the duties, like refilling supplies and folding towels, among the workers and my parents. My mom has found her staple supply store close to home, but still travels more than 100 miles round trip to Westminster once in a while for cooler deals in Little Saigon. I guess she doesn’t mind much. Th? come and go. We’re still learning.

For now, all we can do is keep adding to what we’ve built, keep updating our ever-changing nail polish collection. My sisters and I try to help out where we can: answering phones, assisting customers, scrubbing spa chair tubs. It’s hard to predict what will happen when Ba and Má retire.

All of us siblings have grown up with a strong sense of education, and it’s always been understood that the more schooling we receive, the better off we will be. We’ve done just that. My eldest sister just received her pharmacy degree and is gaining more experience at a hospital in San Diego. The second eldest finished her master’s degree in public policy from UCLA and is now living in Los Angeles. Tamara, who is two years my senior, is in her last year as an undergraduate, studying economics. As for me, I’ve just declared psychology as my major at the University of California, Irvine, though I’m trying my hand at marketing and journalism.

It’s nice when we can all gather at Pink ‘N White and catch up with each other and with our parents, which isn’t often. It is poignant though liberating that our elders do not expect us to take over the salon as we pursue our own niches in the professional world. I think it shows how far my family has come.

Pink ‘N White is more than just a family-run business, and more than what some call the American Dream. It is the epitome of progress with struggle and the fulfillment along the way.

To say that it is the end result, a destination fulfilled, would not do the American Dream, or perhaps the Vietnamese American Dream, justice. The truth is, this venture was an opportunity, a risk, and we took it. At the end of the day, business is business. It hasn’t been easy, and it may never be, but that’s the beauty, I suppose. My parents have taught me to work hard for the things that matter, and to always remember the things that matter, like family. And for that, I owe them so much.

A US grand jury indictment unsealed Monday charges 24 people in connection with a sophisticated marriage fraud scheme designed to help Vietnamese nationals enter or stay in the US illegally.

Twenty-one people, most of whom US citizens of Vietnamese origin ranging in age from 29 to 56, were arrested and booked into the Salt Lake County jail without bail on Monday.

 

Those arrested are charged with conspiracy to defraud the US, alien smuggling, marriage fraud, aggravated identity theft and visa fraud, according to the indictment. They each face up to 32 years in jail.

 

Details on the 18-month investigation called Operation Morning Glory were released Tuesday during a news conference at the US Attorney’s Office.

 

US investigators believe some of those charged recruited 80 to 100 Utahns to marry Vietnamese to help them get proper US documentation. Men and women were equally involved in the fake marriages, investigators said.

 

In order to get through the US immigration system, the couples were often coached well by those charged about what to say and what questions federal officials might ask.

 

The people who were matched into couples would visit each other in the US or Vietnam. During those visits, the couple would be photographed many times together in different changes of clothes to make it look like they were a longtime couple, investigators said.


Vietnamese nationals paid ring leaders up to $30,000 for the match. Ring leaders, who prepared much of the immigration paperwork, in turn paid Utahns $500 to $10,000 and travel expenses to agree to the fake marriages.

 

Recruiters told Utahns the marriages were not “illegal” and they would be helping Vietnamese “escape a terrible situation,” the news release said.

 

Investigators said the US federal government is looking into how the couples were able to get through the immigration system and plan to “refine” policies and procedures.

 

Investigators allege there were five ring leaders – Hoa Thanh Vo, 39; Henry Ngoc Nguyen, 45; Buu Ven Truong, 37; Ngoc Hoa “Noa, Nora, Norwa” Huynh, 33, and Danh Huy Do, 33. They said they were still deciding if those who were involved in the marriages would be charged.

 

On Tuesday, some businesses owned by those arrested were closed. Vo is involved in several businesses, including Vietlink Travel and Service and Nails Divine in a new strip mall on 3600 South near Redwood Road, according to state documents.

 

Hang Hoang, 40, Vo’s wife, works at Nails Divine, which has stayed open. Vietlink Travel, however, is shut down because federal agents took much of the business’s computers and documents.

 

Hoang, who moved from Vietnam to Utah 15 years ago, said the two married 13 years ago and have three children ages 12, nine and four. She said Vo was arrested at their West Valley City home on Monday and spoke to him by phone Tuesday.

 

Source: Tien Phong, Salt Lake Tribune

 
14:56′ 11/08/2006 (GMT+7)

Ba Ria-Vung Tau Province has agreed in principle to a resort project in Xuyen Moc District by HCMC-based Trung Thuy Co, Ltd., which will build a four-star facility in the southern province, the company’s director said.

Duong Thanh Thuy told the Daily on Wednesday that the resort is designed to have a hotel of 300 to 400 rooms, a supermarket, a relaxation area, and other auxiliary tourist facilities. She said her company would join forces with a Japan investor to develop the costly project.

“Total investment will reach US$50mil. We will cooperate with a Japanese investor to develop the project,” she said.

The company will build the resort on 150ha in Phuoc Buu Commune, which will be designed for catering to Japanese tourists, especially the Japanese elderly.

“The Japanese partner will contribute half of the project’s total cost,” she said, without giving the name of the Japanese partner.

Thuy said in the first stage lasting ten years the company will spend around US$20mil on the project. In the second stage, the company will spend more to build what she called pleasure-houses under the forest foliage, and other works.

“Our Japanese partner also has the idea of building a golf course in the resort. If this idea is to be realized, we will have to ask the province for a larger area to build the resort,” Thuy said.

The company is now making an overall plan of the scale 1/500 for the resort and will soon summit it to the Government for consideration.

“We must ask for the Government’s idea because over a half of the area, around 60ha, is in the forest,” Thuy said, hinting at the Government’s policy of forest protection.

The company expects the resort to be up and running in between 2008 and 2010.

Trung Thuy Co. Ltd. is now operates the Miss Aodai chain of shops in HCMC and Hanoi. The shops sell handicraft products, the traditional Vietnamese dress called ao dai, coffee and other products for tourists.

The company also has a Miss Aodai building, and the 18-story Lancaster building under construction in downtown HCMC and a stopover station for tourists in the Mekong Delta Province of Tien Giang named the Miss Aodai Tien Giang.

(Source: SGT)

Americans opt for Vietnam

August 24, 2006

 
09:23′ 11/08/2006 (GMT+7)

Soạn: AM 863449 gi đến 996 để nhn ảnh này
The International Travel Expo which was organized in HCMC on Agust 4 is a good opportunity for all local and foreign tour operators and travel agents to introduce their diversified travel products to visitors.

VietNamNet Bridge – It’s cheap, it’s safe and there’s much to see and do, so it’s no wonder that more and more Americans are coming to Vietnam these days.

 

“What with earthquakes and tsunamis in other parts of the region, Americans want to travel to Vietnam”, says Mr. Losebastien, Secretary General of the ASEAN Tourism Association.

He also reckons that what makes Vietnam attractive is the way it “retains the features of an Asian agricultural country on the path of renovation and integration.” The people are friendly, and they don’t dwell on the bitter past but look to the future.

Professor John Quelch, vice-rector of the Harvard Business School, gets his strongest impression of Vietnam from the festivities at Lunar New Year time. “I remember, there were these motorcyclists carrying kumquat and peach trees; it looked like a forest was coming down the street! What a wonderful time for everyone!”

 

The airlines are doing their bit to bring more foreigners here. For instance, United Airlines began direct flights between San Francisco and Ho Chi Minh City in June 2005, and more French and Korean airlines are flying to Vietnam these days.

And hotels and travel agents, both Vietnamese and American, are offering more and classier tours to Vietnam.

According to the Asia Pacific Tourism Association, a full million Americans visited Vietnam last year, and it’s looking like 50 percent more will see the country in 2006, spending a thousand bucks apiece on average after they arrive. It’s all good news for the travel industry.

Unfortunately, the marketing of Vietnam as a place to visit is not good, not by a long shot. Most Americans who come here know little about the land when they step off the plane, so local travel agents, airlines and hotels need to network much more and formulate strategies for long-term marketing.

 

“Vietnam’s tourism industry should make the most of such things as the nation’s delicious and diverse food, the ao dai (traditional lady dress), and that it’s a unique country full of motorbikes,” Mr. Losebastien adds.

Vietnam has gained a reputation as a safe and attractive land to visit and travel around, of that there is no question.

Many people reckon 2006 will turn out to be a particularly good year for Vietnam’s tourism industry, and like to mention the fact that this country will host the APEC summit later this year.

The Vietnam National Administration of Tourism (VNAT) has launched promotions and its 2006-2010 National Tourism Action Program, and the slogan “Vietnam – the Hidden Charm” is catching on among tour operators, travel agents and visitors.

 

(Source: TBKTVN, SGGP)

 
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A decade after modern Vietnamese painting made a splash on the world scene, critics and galleries say rampant commercialisation and a glut of cheap copies are threatening the young art movement.

The original works of Vietnam’s best-known artists fetch small fortunes in Hanoi, Hong Kong and Singapore. But for each authentic work, hundreds of reproductions are being churned out by craftsmen who have almost perfected a centuries-old Asian tradition of faithfully copying their masters.

Some of Vietnam’s top artists have added to the problem themselves by mass-producing works that originally won them critical acclaim, leading to a creative stagnation and drop in art prices, say some galleries.

“Many painters turned to the commercial production of their work solely for the marketplace and managed to make a good living doing this,” says Suzanne Lecht, director at Art Vietnam, one of the main galleries in Hanoi.

“Sometimes the influence of money weighs more heavily than the desire to produce a singular work of art.”

Vietnamese visual art, influenced by ancient Chinese and modern French styles, awoke in the 1990s from a long slumber during which only socialist realist art was allowed for political purposes.

As Vietnam’s “doi moi” (renewal) reforms kicked in and the country reopened its doors to the outside world, a wave of painters emerged to the delight of art lovers who hailed their works as both fresh and uniquely Vietnamese.

The vibrant and abstract landscapes of Le Thiet Cuong, Thanh Bien’s dreamlike depictions of women in traditional ao dai dresses, and the Cubist-influenced lacquer works of Thanh Chuong all earned praise from foreign collectors.

In 1995, a canvas by Do Quang Em sold for more than US$50,000 at Hong Kong’s Galerie La Vong, one of a number of galleries devoted to Vietnamese art that sprang up around the Asian region.

The commercial success of Em, whose naturalistic still-lives are said to recall the old Dutch masters, was the spark that led collectors and critics to take the movement seriously, say some experts.

It showed that “Vietnamese art is unique and different from that of other Asian countries”, says Shirley Hui of Galerie La Vong. “It combines local culture and traditions, the French legacy and ancient Chinese philosophy.”

Many Vietnamese artists have continued to explore new creative avenues, dabbling in new styles, motifs and media but for others the overnight success has amounted to a creative kiss of death, say critics.

“We have some great artists who are doing well and don’t produce too much,” says Hui. “But a number of others become commercial and then just keep copying their own work. They will ruin their future in the market.”

Today the tourist areas of Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City abound with hundreds of galleries that mostly specialise in detailed reproductions of famous Western artists, from Leonardo da Vinci to Vincent Van Gogh to Andy Warhol.

Source: China Daily