Thursday, January 5, 2017

The New Lucky Dragon Chinese Casino in Las Vegas

The Lucky Dragon, a dedicated casino aimed at Chinese gamblers, recently opened in Las Vegas.  Lucky Dragon isn’t on the strip, but rather about a block west on Sahara Blvd., closer to Main Street than the busiest parts of the Strip.  It’s a small, low rise casino.  I’m guessing that the hotel portion, which is in an adjacent building to the casino, is maybe 6 or 7 stories high.  The gaming area is about 20,000 square feet, roughly equivalent to the size of one floor of an office building.  There was not a lot of gambling activity on the floor, but there was this huge line to sign up to be a frequent gambler.

It's surprising to me that it's taken so long for somebody to actually open an Asian targeted casino in Las Vegas.  There was the proposed Gold Mountain casino back in the 1980s which actually filed an IPO, but which was subsequently canceled.  And 15 years ago there was the mythical Red Dragon casino in the first Rush Hour movie with Jackie Chan.  At the time I thought a real Chinese casino would soon follow, but that didn't happen until now.  Then there's the large facility on the Strip being built by the owners of the Genting casino in Malaysia, which is currently under construction and will open up in two years with what seems to be a pan-Asian theme.  I trust it'll be nicer than their casino in the Malaysian highlands which we found dull and boring.

Perhaps the most telltale sign as to the target audience for Lucky Dragon is the fact there are only Chinese food options.  Plus, to me it seemed the dining areas are as big as the gambling areas.   The largest eatery at Lucky Dragon is the cafeteria type Dragon’s Alley, with an adjacent dining area.  Food was so so, but pricing was quite reasonable ($7 for noodle soup, $2 for small bowls of steam tray noodles).   And there was a line waiting to get in by the time we finished our meal.

Upstairs there is a higher class restaurant called Pearl Ocean (where the extra small dim sum is $4.88 a plate and the prices go up from there), which was packed  full, with people waiting.  Given that the casino has been open only a short while, that was impressive.   A second, higher class upstairs restaurant called Phoenix only opens for dinner.  They also have a 24 hour cook to order snack bar called Bao Now which was fairly expensive, with most entrees in the double digit dollar price range.  

The casino is catering to tourists from China, and Hainan Airlines just started flying from Beijing to Las Vegas in part to take tourists to Lucky Dragon.  However I’m not sure if that strategy will work since Lucky Dragon is so small and off the beaten path.  You can't easily walk from Lucky Dragon to the main part of the Strip (we found out the hard way), and perhaps like the moribund SLS Casino at the north end of the Strip, they're counting on the north end to perk up with the 2019 opening of Genting's Resorts World.  Whether they can hold out until then is something to be determined.