A new las vegas casino. Ten years ago, that wasn’t such big news. Opening a new property on the Strip seemed as hard as throwing a quarter into Lake Mead. Then the recession hit and, as the bulk of the Fontainebleau and failed (but hopefully soon to rise in new guises) Plaza and Echelon projects prove, that’s no longer the case. No new casinos have opened in Las Vegas since the Cosmopolitan in 2010. But, later this year, the Lucky Dragon welcomes its first visitors, officially recognized as the first new casino to break Las Vegas’ recession losing streak.
The Lucky Dragon will be a different kind of casino in more ways than one. It’s just off the Strip on Sahara Avenue, and it will have only 206 rooms, just above the statutory minimum. But, as the days of the “everything to everyone” casino seem to be waning (hence the rise of boutique properties within properties), the most remarkable thing about Lucky Dragon might be its laser focus on a single niche.
That niche may surprise you. The casino was built in part with money from EB-5 investors. That program, as detailed earlier in this column (“Investing in America,” May 30, 2013) allows high net-worth foreign investors to become eligible for green cards in exchange for investments more than $500,000 in specified projects. That, combined with its small size, might lead you to conclude that it will focus primarily on Chinese high rollers. But since Beijing’s anti-graft crackdown and China’s economic slowdown, that group has gotten considerably less able, or willing, to gamble both in Macau and in Las Vegas, as evidenced by plummeting baccarat numbers on the Strip. In addition, the international high-end customer is an expensive and risky target to bet on, particularly without a large mass customer base to offset its inherent volatility.
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