Dragon City site up for auction, but Asian-themed casino remains idea with potential

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Judging by the flock of tourists who celebrate Chinese New Year in Las Vegas -- dropping hundreds of millions in city coffers -- and the constant stream of tour buses unloading Asian tourists at the city's burgeoning Chinatown, Las Vegas remains a top destination for visitors from the Pacific Rim. Conventional wisdom held that someday, someone would open an Asian-themed hotel-casino.

Like the scuttled projects before it, the Dragon City Hotel and Resort had high hopes of being the first into this lucrative market, only to die before getting off the ground. Now the 22-acre site on which it sits (bound by Valley View Boulevard, Spring Mountain Road, Wynn Road and Desert Inn Road) will go up for auction on May 16.

"This is a highly strategic opportunity for buyers to acquire a fully entitled casino site in an unparalleled location," said Michael E. Berland, executive vice president and principal of Chartwell Group's Accelerated Marketing Division, said in a press release. His company is overseeing the auction.

The auction will be held at the MGM Grand. Bidders are required to bring a cashier's check for $1 million; bidding will start at $27.5 million. Those interested in more information or obtaining a due diligence package with data on surveys, permits, titles, easements, taxes and designs, among other items, can call Berland at (216) 360-0009.

Given the growth of the local Asian community and interest in Las Vegas generated by the casino explosion in the Chinese enclave of Macau, a boutique resort (250 to 500 rooms) catering to the cultures of the Pacific Rim could do very well.

Vegas hosts about 2.5 million tourists from Asian countries every year. Gaming experts expect that number could double in a few years, citing China's expanding upper class, Macau's popularity (gambling is illegal elsewhere in mainland China) and relaxed visa restrictions for some Asian nations. Some local entrepreneurs want to create an Asian district to appeal to visitors from the Strip.

Vegas' master-planned Chinatown, whose multiethnic offerings include Filipino, Japanese, Korean and Vietnamese businesses, has blossomed since it opened in 1995. An Asian-themed hotel seems like the next logical, potentially lucrative step. Such a property could lure coveted Asian "whales," gamblers who often lose (and win) millions and can impact a casino's bottom line with just one wager.

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