- LOS ANGELES, CA - As SARS sweeps across Asia and the
region's richest gamblers choose not to bet their health
on a trans-Pacific flight, Las Vegas casinos are winning
over big spenders from other regions, offering high-stakes
tournaments to sustain play, casino bosses said on May
from the Far East are some of the highest wagering players
in Las Vegas, and annually make up a large portion of
casino revenues from table games like baccarat.
as the pneumonia-like illness known as Severe Acute Respiratory
Syndrome has spread through the Far East, the thought
of contracting the illness through travel -- even First
Class -- is one game not
don't want to be on a plane with 300 others for 14 hours
and potentially be exposed to the virus," Harry Hagerty,
chief financial officer of Park Place Entertainment Corp.,
said in a recent interview explaining a slowness in foreign
business he attributed to SARS.
other casino operators, No. 1 Las Vegas casino owner Park
Place, which owns Caesars
Palace, has felt an extra dip in revenues in what
is normally a slow spring season.
authorities have also been giving fewer visas to foreigners
for fear of SARS, hoteliers say. John Marz, senior vice
president at Mandalay Resort Group, which owns the Mandalay
Bay Resort Casino, said that was one reason for a
Kong is virtually crippled," and customers were staying
home, Marz said.
Taiwan and Singapore had also been affected in the last
20 days or so, he said.
said Mandalay could compensate for the drop with special
events, like a recent prize boxing match, and by focusing
marketing efforts on domestic and South American high-end
BETTING ON BACCARAT
operator MGM Mirage, which owns the swanky Bellagio
hotel and claims two-thirds of the market for international
high rollers, is betting that a big tournament of baccarat,
a card game favored by high stakes players, will attract
Asian gamblers in June.
far reservations from the hundreds invited for the tournament
are not behind the usual pace, said MGM spokeswoman Yvette
Monet, but overall business is slower, she added.
has been a modest decrease in visits from Asia, and we
believe that is due to the soft global economy aggravated
among other factors by the outbreak of SARS in the last
couple of months," she said.
holds regular tournaments of baccarat and has had the
June tournament scheduled for some time. In the end, MGM
is sure the casino will win in the long run.
have faced larger issues than SARS, and the industry has
proven itself very durable," said Monet.