An article in the February 21 New York Times by Steve Friess, Las Vegas Adapts to Reap Chinese New Years’ Bounty, documents the huge financial impact of Lunar New Year celebrations on Las Vegas.
An amusing element of the article concerned the attempt to reconcile a travel-and-gambling binge with Chinese 春节 traditions:
“The Chinese New Year has always been a time for people to get together and play games, to celebrate good luck and good fortune,” Mr. Huang [a travel agent based in Las Vegas] said. “People like to get together and spend substantial amounts of money. Vegas helps keep up the tradition.”
That’s a new way to keep up tradition.
My memories of Chinese New Year’s in the good old days are quite different. I particular recall a frigid Lunar New Year spent in Taiyuan in the early 1980s when the entire town shut down and there wasn’t an open shop or restaurant to be found. The guy who tended the boiler in the hotel went home to make dumplings, as did almost everyone else, and I spent the holiday sleeping in my coat and eating boiled noodles.
Dining options for the New Years' reveler today are a little more varied:
It is not unusual for a family to spend more than $20,000 for a Chinese New Year dinner, said Richard Chen, the executive chef at the Wing Lei restaurant in the Wynn Las Vegas resort, which has imported abalone at $2,226 a pound and bird’s nest at $1,600 a pound for this year’s festivities.
Playing mah-jong at home all night with one’s family is apparently no match for the lure of dropping a bundle in a glitzy casino. Reportedly, there was more money bet in Las Vegas over the first weekend of Chinese New Year than there was on Super Bowl weekend.
China’s place at the center of the gambling universe appears secure.
The article quotes a casino type describing Chinese gamblers “as the best and highest quality” in the world, which I assume means they lose big, quickly, and enthusiastically, and somehow are always able to come up with more money so they can come back and lose again.
Win or lose, wherever you are...Happy New Year.