Chinese politics influence fading in Vegas market

'Bad behaviors' frowned uponThe Chinese influence at Las Vegas Strip casinos has recently been depressed and may be turned down even further during the months ahead.

Strip executives have generally blamed the diminished spending by wealthy Chinese on the slowing Chinese economy and the ongoing anti-corruption probe of the central government that effectively put a lid on extravagant spending of all kinds.

There’s now another factor. Followers of the global gaming business have been speculating about the effects of a recent warning about “bad behaviors” that mainland residents should keep in mind as they travel elsewhere.

One of the items includes a warning against gambling issued by the China National Tourism Administration.

Scanning my way through various news stories, I could not find any reference to Nevada or U.S. casinos. Macau visits would appear to be on the approved list since it has the only casinos in the People’s Republic of China where gambling is legal.

Casinos in Vietnam, South Korea and Laos are probably not on the government’s approved list.

Las Vegas has shown itself to be very sensitive to pressures that warn of the dangers associated with extravagant spending.

Remember what happened about seven years ago when President Obama delivered what he probably thought of as an off-hand remark warning companies about not spending their bailout money from the government on trips to Las Vegas.

He probably thought of that warning as a metaphor of sorts for discouraging extravagant spending, not realizing the meetings and convention business was a big driver of the local economy.

Las Vegas executives went through the roof with their snarled responses to the president’s statement that was a crushing but temporary blow to the local tourism-based economy. Wynn lost a big piece of business because of the implication some saw in Obama’s warning.

I could almost imagine the president raising his hands in a defensive gesture, maybe saying, huh? What did I do?

Las Vegas-based Wynn, Sands and MGM are moving toward the opening this year of multi-billion-dollar resorts on Macau and the last thing these companies want is a warning from Beijing that encourages potential visitors to reduce spending.

Reaction by these companies to Beijing’s be-careful-with-your-gambling warning will probably be muted if it is even visible.

Beijing regulators do not appear inclined to accept helpful criticism with a nod and an understanding smile.

Phil Hevener has been writing about the Nevada gaming business for more than 30 years. Email: 

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