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Steve Gilliard, 1964-2007

It is with tremendous sadness that we must convey the news that Steve Gilliard, editor and publisher of The News Blog, passed away June 2, 2007. He was 42.

To those who have come to trust The News Blog and its insightful, brash and unapologetic editorial tone, we have Steve to thank from the bottom of our hearts. Steve helped lead many discussions that mattered to all of us, and he tackled subjects and interest categories where others feared to tread.

Please keep Steve's friends and family in your thoughts and prayers.

Steve meant so much to us.

We will miss him terribly.

photo by lindsay beyerstein


Chinese New Years in Vegas

Isaac Brekken for The New York Times

At the Bellagio, decorations are displayed to observe Chinese New Year.

Las Vegas Adapts to Reap Chinese New Year Bounty

Published: February 21, 2007

LAS VEGAS, Feb. 20 — Zhu Yu was not the least perturbed that faux Italian frescoes — rather than Asian silk screens — decorated the ceiling of the Venetian Resort Hotel Casino hallway where he and his family watched on Saturday as a 25-foot-long red-and-yellow dragon shimmied through a traditional Chinese New Year dance.

Chinese New Year is one of the most profitable times of the year for Las Vegas casinos like the Venetian, which featured a dragon dance Saturday.

“Oh, it’s nothing like what we did when I was a boy in Taipei, but it’s still very exciting,” Mr. Zhu, 49, said over the din of drumbeats as the dragon paused to send good luck in the direction of those inside the high-limit baccarat room. His three daughters, all younger than 10, stood mesmerized in front of his wife.

It was the Zhu family’s fourth straight year ushering in Chinese New Year in Las Vegas instead of in their home city, San Francisco. Their stop at the Venetian’s dragon dance was followed by a visit to a similar one in the pirate’s cove outside the Treasure Island Hotel and Casino on Sunday, the first day of the Year of the Pig, and another dragon dance Monday, this one at the Roman-themed Caesars Palace.

“This is a Las Vegas version of Chinese New Year,” Mr. Zhu said. “It’s its own thing, but we love it.”

So do casino executives. Chinese New Year, a 15-day celebration that is set by a lunar calendar and that usually falls in late January or early February, has become one of the city’s most profitable events, drawing thousands of Asian and Asian-American visitors and hundreds of millions of their dollars each year.

The city’s tourism board does not keep statistics on the event’s economic impact, but executives with Las Vegas Sands Inc., which owns the Venetian, say more money is bet during the two-week period than at any other time during the year. “The Chinese New Year is longer than anything,” said the company’s president and chief operating officer, William P. Weidner, “and we see much higher per-player action.”

J. Terrence Lanni, chief executive of MGM Mirage, the city’s largest gambling company with nine properties on the Strip, including the Bellagio and Mirage resorts, said that for his company, the first weekend of Chinese New Year was the second-biggest betting weekend of the year, ahead of the Super Bowl and behind only the conventional New Year’s holiday. (Gamblers in Las Vegas wagered $93 million on last month’s Super Bowl, the Nevada Gaming Control Board reported.)

Casinos drape enormous banners with New Year’s greetings in Chinese across their porte-cocheres and add tables for baccarat and pai gow poker, two games favored by Asian gamblers. They hold parties where managers hand invited guests red envelopes stuffed with money or special gambling chips adorned with the animal symbol of the year. At Caesars Palace, Celine Dion and Elton John are given a few days off so that Jacky Cheung, the Canto-pop sensation, can hold forth in the 4,100-seat Colosseum.

Most Chinese restaurants on the Strip stay open longer and add traditional New Year’s dishes or rename some regular ones with lucky or upbeat words. 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.

At the Bellagio, the theme of the 14,000-square-foot Conservatory is changed only five times a year, and Chinese New Year is one of those times. The current display features live tangerine trees, a 45-foot-tall pagoda, and a mechanical pig with a moving eyes, tail and snout.

Casinos need to cater to Asian customers because they bring in tons of money and even travel from overseas. The same thing will happen with hispanics as well, because this is about money and a changing customer base.

You have slots for women, table games for men, Asian games for those customers. You have to adapt to the customer base.

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