Asian gamblers

Pai Gow is a popular game in the "Jade Palace" Asian table games area in the Tropicana Casino & Resort, Atlantic City.

Targeted marketing to East Asian customers has become particularly important in recent years as Atlantic City casinos look for ways to compete in an ever-expanding market.

Nearly every casino in the resort has a team dedicated to marketing to the Asian customer, with the majority of those customers coming from New York City, Philadelphia and Washington, D.C. That’s been the case for 15 to 20 years, most say. Today, however, casinos say the market for those customers is more competitive than ever.

That’s led Caesars Entertainment to make the websites for its four Atlantic City properties available in Chinese, Korean and Vietnamese. Golden Nugget Atlantic City recently hired an international marketing team to focus on Asian customers. That team is led by Gary K. Ng, who is fluent in both Mandarin and Cantonese.

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Tariq Shaukat, executive vice president and chief marketing officer for Caesars Entertainment, said the company has found a more personal approach is needed when targeting specific populations. Every property has a dedicated Asian marketing team, and there is a centralized multi-cultural team based in Las Vegas.

“The Asian market is the one that’s growing the fastest, and it has been for quite some time,” Shaukat said. “You really have to think about becoming part of the community. The consumer wants to know that you’re really doing something different and personalized to what they want.”

For customers whose primary interest is gambling, marketers try to sell the entire experience, including shows with Chinese or Vietnamese performers and Asian restaurant offerings. Additions can make rooms more attractive. For example, Shaukat said it’s become increasingly important to make tea kettles, rather than coffee pots, available in guest rooms for Asian customers.

There are other customizable options, marketing officials pointed out. Many Chinese believe the number four is bad luck. So a room number with a four in it usually would not be given to a Chinese customer.

“Our entire market approach at Caesars is grounded in trying to persuade the persuade-able. If someone is really not interested in visiting Atlantic City, let’s not spend time talking to them,” Shaukat said. “You want to go where the markets are growing ... and not overly obsess with the markets that are shrinking.”

Asian people are known to have an affinity for gambling. The Chinese-controlled peninsula of Macau is the world’s strongest gambling market, with revenues far outpacing Las Vegas.

Tropicana Atlantic City Casino and Resort also is working to attract that demographic, with an Asian marketing team of six employees. Like many casinos, Tropicana has an Asian-themed gambling area called Jade Place. It offers games popular with Asian gamblers such as mini baccarat, pai gow poker and pai gow tiles.

Tropicana also taylors event prizes, giveaways, tournaments and entertainment to Asian interests. An edible nest made by tiny birds called swiflets, for example, is a Chinese delicacy when dissolved in soup. Often called “caviar of the East,” the half-moon shaped nests are highly prized for their nutrients and can command a hefty price. Mooncakes are another popular giveaway. The pastries with rich filling are typically made for the festival of lunar worship.

Eric Fiocco, Tropicana’s vice president of marketing, said Asian marketing in Atlantic City has gotten more competitive over time, with more casinos targeting the market in a significant way.

“At the end of the day, we’re all just trying to find business and drive business. I think we differentiate ourselves because of the variety of things you can do at this property that you can’t do at smaller properties, with our restaurants and entertainment,” Fiocco said. “Asian gambling is a big piece of the table business. It’s very competitive, and everyone wants the same customer.”

Architect Paul Steelman, an Atlantic City native, developed the first Las Vegas-style casino in Asia — the Sands Macau. He said the resort’s casinos all say they’re working to attract the Asian market, but much more could be done.

He said Asian gamblers enjoy distinctions that aren’t yet available in Atlantic City casinos, such as segregated VIP lobbies and playing rooms, direct access to elevators and much brighter gambling spaces.

“Asian casinos tend to be roughly 10 times brighter than the average Atlantic City casino,” Steelman said. “They want it whiter, brighter and cleaner. That’s obviously different from Atlantic City, where it was more treated as something to be hidden away.”

Steelman said it’s clear that Atlantic City casinos recognize the challenge, but truly capturing the market will require more capital investment.

“The investment isn’t significant, but I suppose it’s significant in terms of the things for Atlantic City,” he said.

Contact Jennifer Bogdan:


@ACPressJennifer on Twitter

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