Casino gambling on big payoff from Asian community

Maryland's largest casino is gambling on a big payoff from the state's growing Asian American community. It is the start of the Chinese Lunar New Year, and on Friday, Maryland Live! Casino kicked off the celebration.

It is one of the ways, big and small, the casino is trying to appeal to Asian customers.

"The main customer base here is our Chinese, Vietnamese and Korean," said Rob Norton, president and general manager of Maryland Live!

At the Arundel Mills casino, the Lunar New Year is more than a celebration.

"It's very big business for us," said Norton.

While traditional lion dancers pranced around the casino, the tables began to fill up with Asian customers.

"Good luck and prosperity, that's what it's all about," he said. "It's part of their culture."

Gaming is popular in Asian countries, steeped in traditions about luck and prosperity in numbers. The casino got a big boost last year when it began offering live table gaming.

"The introduction of table games and games like baccarat and Pai Gow have definitely added to the number of Asian customers that have been coming to Maryland Live!" Norton said.

The casino has an entire marketing team dedicated to the Asian community. Staff also receives cultural training and it offers translators to customers.

The casino's 80-seat Luk Fu restaurant serves dim sum and noodles right next to the baccarat tables and was built using feng shui design.

The baccarat tables are also arranged with luck in mind, in a group of eight. It is a lucky number for the Chinese, signifying wealth and prosperity.

"It's the beginning of the year. You get good luck. So they tend to gamble more," explained Judy Wang.

The Lunar New Year officially started Thursday at the start of the new moon.

"I come to celebrate. This today is the second day of the new year," said King Cheuk. "The second day is to open the new year."

The festivities included Chinese name painting, dragon candy making and a face-changing magician, and of course the gambling.

Aoydd Liu was taking it all in and hadn't had a chance to try her luck yet. Asked if she was going to be lucky, she said, "I hope so!"

Maryland Live! also has marketing teams for other groups and minority communities. But given the rapid growth in the Asian community and the cultural traditions, it is an opportunity the casino couldn't ignore.

"It's very much about respect, it's about the feng shui, it's about the feeling and belief in luck," said Norton.