Chinese New Year, Vegas-style

For Wu's daughter, Yvonne, this is what Chinese New Year is all about. Like thousands of American Chinese, the family flocks in for lion dances, special meals, Canto-pop concerts and elaborate decorations that have made this gambling capital a key destination for the event.

While resorts here have been throwing Chinese New Year events since Caesars Palace did the first in 1975, the relationship between Las Vegas and China has blossomed over the past decade.

The Vegas gaming companies MGM Resorts, Wynn Resorts and Las Vegas Sands now own elaborate casino-resorts in the Chinese special administrative region of Macau, and the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority opened a tourism office in Shanghai in 2008.

Macau has eclipsed Las Vegas as the world's gaming destination with the most wagering and a new Singapore casino owned by Las Vegas Sands has proved stunningly profitable.

And yet that seems to have merely whetted the Chinese desire to see Las Vegas. "With the proliferation of gaming, people see the Macaus and the Singapores of the world and say, 'This is great, but let's go to the Entertainment Capital of the World, let's go to Las Vegas," said Greg Shulman, vice president of international marketing for MGM Resorts International, which owns the Mirage and Bellagio casinos.

Those heavily sought-after Asian high rollers are ferried across the Pacific Ocean in lavish jets for Chinese New Year and then treated to private banquets attended by Chinese celebrities and showered with lavish gifts by hotel executives.

Across the city, hotels like Caesars Palace and The Venetian erect massive banners with the Chinese New Year greeting, "Gung Hay Fat Choy" in Chinese characters. Red Chinese paper lanterns and citrus trees are ubiquitous and Cantopop megastar Jacky Cheung performs on Sunday at The Colosseum at Caesars Palace.

At the Palazzo resort, an atrium area this year features a 16-foot-tall stuffed rabbit.
Chinese restaurants all over the city offer special New Year's menus, adding some traditional dishes or renaming existing offerings with lucky or upbeat words. It's 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.

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