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Asian-themed Lucky Dragon Hotel & Casino set to open in late 2016

9 May 2016

Five months after hitting a major roadblock, Lucky Dragon Hotel & Casino announced last week that its financing is secure and the project near the north end of the Strip is on target to open later this year.

This was welcome news to everyone involved in the creation of the new nine-story, Asian-themed boutique hotel — particularly General Manager Matt Harkness, who just came on board five weeks ago.

"It's exciting to know that we're going forward full steam ahead," Harkness told Casino City. "Being the city's first ground-up casino development in six years, this is going to create a lot of buzz. And we're doing everything in our power right now to make sure that when we open, we live up to the high level of expectations everyone has for the property. We can't wait to show the world what we have to offer."

A rendering of the new Lucky Dragon, located near the north end of the Las Vegas Strip.

A rendering of the new Lucky Dragon, located near the north end of the Las Vegas Strip.

Located on 2.6 acres across the street from SLS Las Vegas Hotel & Casino, sandwiched between the Stratosphere Casino, Hotel & Tower and Circus Circus Hotel Casino on West Sahara Avenue, Lucky Dragon broke ground in April 2015, backed by an initial $60 million of EB-5 foreign investment money. But the program's fundraising hit its limit last year. In November, the operators — Las Vegas Economic Impact Regional Center (LVEIRC) and Lucky Dragon LP — requested tax increment financing, but were denied by city officials.

Last week, the operators said they have received "financial commitments" from the "Fonfa and Weidner families," "guaranteeing" the project will be completed in late 2016. William Weidner, the former longtime chief operating officer of Las Vegas Sands, and Andrew Fonfa, the developer of the Allure Las Vegas high-rise tower next door to Lucky Dragon, serve as president and chief executive officer of the LVEIRC, respectively.

With this new financial assurance, Harkness and his staff are now fully engrossed in directing the project to a successful launch within the next seven months. Harkness spent most of his 25-year career in the industry in Atlantic City. He was also general manager of Four Winds Casino Resort in Michigan for nine years and chief operating officer for Best Sunshine International on the Pacific island of Saipan for the past 12 months.

He said he was lured back to the States because of his past experience working with the Asian market, as well as the "uniqueness" of Lucky Dragon.

"I've been working with casinos for a long time, and Lucky Dragon is just so interesting and so rare and I couldn't turn down the chance to be a part of it," he said. "I've worked in Atlantic City, where we had a lot of Asian-market business come down from Philadelphia and New York. Same goes for when I was in Michigan, with Chicago being close by. And obviously in Saipan it was all Asian. So, I know the market and I know there's a need for this kind of project in Las Vegas. It was a perfect fit all around."

Lucky Dragon is attempting to position itself as Las Vegas’ first resort casino with an "authentic Asian lifestyle experience." It hopes to become a "community gathering hotspot for Asian visitors, locals and anyone looking for the best pan-Asian food and excitement in town."

The night market at the Lucky Dragon will emulate the street food offerings of Asia and serve regional delicacies.

The night market at the Lucky Dragon will emulate the street food offerings of Asia and serve regional delicacies.

Signage throughout the 204-room resort will feature the Chinese language first and English second. There will be a multilingual staff, and the 27,500 square-foot casino will have mostly baccarat and pai gow — both popular Asian games — with many fewer blackjack tables, slot machines and other options that typically flood Western casino floors. In the center of the gaming floor, a pagoda-shaped bar will feature a 1.25-ton glass dragon sculpture suspended from the ceiling.

Amenities will include an indoor/outdoor high-end tea garden and lounge with custom-built Gongfu tables, allowing for traditional Chinese tea ritual ceremonies; a "night market" that will emulate the street food offerings of Asia; a collection of restaurants with a variety of Asian dishes, including a dim sum restaurant with live exotic seafood flown in daily; and a 4,500 square-foot spa focusing on reflexology treatments and featuring scrubs, massages, acupuncture, Chinese herbal medicines and total relaxation techniques.

"Other casinos have put an effort into catering to the local Asian market, but certainly not to this extent," Harkness said. "We are in position to deliver a product that nobody else can offer right now."

Of course, that may change in 2019 if the opening of Resorts World Las Vegas, a Chinese-themed resort planned on the former site the Stardust Hotel, comes to fruition. The $4 billion, Genting Group property was originally scheduled to open in 2018, but has been delayed. So, as Harkness points out, as of today no other resort in Las Vegas is totally dedicated to capturing the large local Asian market, and like any business, the location of Lucky Dragon may very well play a major role in its success.

"It is absolutely going to revitalize the area and the northern part of the Strip," Harkness said with conviction. "It's on one of the busiest roads I have ever seen in my life. When you build a business, you want to locate it where people are, and there are certainly plenty of people driving between Sahara and the intersection at Las Vegas Boulevard.

"We're also in a spot that is heavily populated by the local Asian market and there are plenty of other capital improvements going on or in the works in this area, so I think the location is going to suit the property very well."

Bookings for Lucky Dragon begin this summer. In addition to standard rooms, the hotel will offer 23 standard suites, averaging 625 square feet. A 1,300-square-foot penthouse suite with panoramic views of the Las Vegas Strip will occupy the top floor, along with a formal dining space that will be used for catered meals, events and more.

"Above all, I think people are really going to be blown away by the beauty of this property," said Harkness. "It's going to very contemporary, with beautiful artistic touches and the Asian motif. Again, it's going to be something that nobody has ever seen before, and along with the product and service we provide, that's going to really set us aside from everyone else."
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Best of Gary Trask
Gary Trask

Gary serves as Casino City's managing editor and has more than 20 years experience as a writer and editor.

A member of the inaugural Poker Hall of Fame Media Committee, Gary enjoys playing poker and blackjack, but spends most of his time sitting in the comfy confines of the sportsbook when in Las Vegas.

The Boston native is also a former PR pro in the golf-casino-resort industry and a fanatical golfer, allowing his two favorite hobbies - gambling and golf - to collide quite naturally.

Contact Gary at gary@casinocity.com and follow him on Twitter at @CasinoCityGT.

Gary Trask Websites:

twitter.com/#!/casinocityGT
Gary Trask
Gary serves as Casino City's managing editor and has more than 20 years experience as a writer and editor.

A member of the inaugural Poker Hall of Fame Media Committee, Gary enjoys playing poker and blackjack, but spends most of his time sitting in the comfy confines of the sportsbook when in Las Vegas.

The Boston native is also a former PR pro in the golf-casino-resort industry and a fanatical golfer, allowing his two favorite hobbies - gambling and golf - to collide quite naturally.

Contact Gary at gary@casinocity.com and follow him on Twitter at @CasinoCityGT.

Gary Trask Websites:

twitter.com/#!/casinocityGT