Lucky Dragon Casino to Be Auctioned on October 30 in Las Vegas
On October 30, a bankruptcy auction for the Lucky Dragon Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas will take place. The ill-fated Lucky Dragon Casino is being auctioned only two years after the casino opened.
No one is certain who the prospective buyers are. Michael Parks, the SVP of a local real estate and investment firm named CBRE, said the auction will be held at the end of the month and he is aware of interest in the property.
Parks said, “For the right visionary and owner, this site and amenity-rich property represents an excellent opportunity to own a first-rate Las Vegas hospitality property.”
Back in February 2018, when the casino was shuttered due to unpaid bills, Derek Stevens of the D Hotel and Casino in downtown Las Vegas showed up to look over the Lucky Dragon property. Stevens, who has big plans for a casino on Fremont Street, said he was just an interested observer.
Lucky Dragon Casino’s Grand Opening
The Lucky Dragon Casino opened in December 2016 to considerable buzz. It was the first Las Vegas casino to be conceived and built after the Global Recession. Lucky Dragon had well-connected backers, including Andrew Fonfa and former Las Vegas Sands COO and president William Weidner.
Lucky Dragon Casino also had a marketing concept that seemed ripe for the times. Lucky Dragon was designed for Asian-American gamblers from California, as well as the influx of Asian high rollers coming to Las Vegas throughout the world. The casino opened the same month that a Chinese airline, Hainan Airline, announced the first-ever Beijing-to-Las Vegas non-stop flights.
Lucky Dragon: Authentic Asian Casino
The owners took great measures to cater to Asian gamblers. Lucky Dragon touted its devotion baccarat tables than most Vegas casinos (though some customers later complained it did not have enough baccarat tables). Its engineers were even said to have built the casino with Feng Shui in mind.
When it opened, ownership touted it as the “first casino resort to deliver an authentic Asian lifestyle experience”, complete with all the amenities that would make it “a community hot spot for Asian visitors, locals and anyone looking for the best Pan-Asian food and excitement in town.”
Bad Comps, Too Cramped
The problem was, baccarat revenues were going down at the time in Las Vegas. The crackdown on conspicuous consumption among Chinese high rollers, as well as capital flight in general, from the Chinese mainland was in full motion. Fewer Chinese high rollers were visiting Las Vegas’s baccarat tables. The number of Asian-Americans in California who wanted to go to Asia-themed casinos might have been overestimated. The fact the owners were targeting a small percentage of the US population also might have been a misstep.
Beyond that, Lucky Dragon did not stand out for local regulars, who form the backbone of most casinos except the biggest resorts. Critics gave a variety of reasons were given for its demise. Some said the comps system was too stingy. Nothing is going to drive away regulars and high rollers alike than a bonus system which does not encourage return visits.
Roger Chin, a 58-year old resident who has gone to Palace Station for 15 years, said nothing about it stood out — and the gaming space was too small. Chin said, “They didn’t have the variety of games I liked. It was cramped. It felt too small. I like to walk around and the way it was set up, you couldn’t really wander.”
“It’s a Business Risk”
Tony Lucas, a professor of casino management at UNLV, may have written the correct epitaph for the original Lucky Dragon Hotel and Casino. Bill Weidner and the other investors believed they had a winning business plan, but it failed in a big way.
Even savvy businessmen sometimes err, said Tony Lucas. The UNLV professor said, “I have nothing but good things to say about Bill Weidner’s group. But it’s like any business out there.”
“You put it out there and you can do all the due diligence in the world, but the smartest man in the world will never know if there’s going to be sufficient demand. It’s a business risk that follows any venture.”
Lucky Dragon Casino’s Demise
Whatever the case, the Lucky Dragon Casino was in trouble almost from the start. Eleven months into operations, executives announced they would pull out some baccarat tables and install blackjack and roulette tables. By that time, rumors were swirling that Lucky Dragon Casino was missing bill payments, or on the verge of closure.
The beginning of the end came in January 2018, when the casino closed ostensibly for reorganization. The gaming space never reopened, though Lucky Dragon preserved the illusion for some time that it would reopen at a later date.
Meanwhile, the Lucky Dragon’s 203-room hotel remained open for business. In early October, the hotel also closed. Since then, creditors have been preparing for an auction to find a suitable new owner.