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How to Attract and Service the Asian Player
by Andy Nazarechuk

Knowing the cultural background of your Chinese client will put you in a position to provide a unique type of service that will be greatly appreciated. Additionally, knowing this information will reduce your risk of insulting or jinxing your players. In one instance, an Asian high roller was insulted due to an improper hand motion by a dealer. The player left to play somewhere else. Don't spend thousands of dollars bringing in Asian players unless you are going to protect your investment by properly training your executives, managers, and employees in culturally correct behaviors.

To attract and service Asian players properly, you need to have an in-depth understanding of the history and cultural differences of those targeted Asian countries. This is not an easy process. Asia encompasses a vast part of the world and includes a variety of countries. China, Japan, Korea, Malaysia, Taiwan, Indonesia, and the Philippines are just a few of the dozens of countries considered to be part of Asia. You must not assume that these countries are the same. Although there are some overlying similarities, they are uniquely different and intense study is required to understand the contrast. One thing that is true is that Chinese love to gamble, it is an integral part of their culture.

China, for example, has the world's longest recorded history, estimated at over 6,000 years. A society that has been in existence that long has developed an instinctive understanding of its values and beliefs. Its behaviors, values, methods of communication, and superstitions are foreign to an outsider but, to members of the same society, they are as common as water flowing downstream.

This article will focus on the Chinese Culture and the unique philosophies that must be understood to attract and service this particular Asian clientele effectively.

To attract Asian players, a Hotel/Casino must offer cultural services and an atmosphere that will entice them to play at your property. How many of your employees know how to say "hello" in the language of the countries that you regularly invite to come to your casino? Americans who travel internationally expect everyone to speak English and to welcome them in the same way that they would be welcomed at home. But when we invite international guests or players to come to our casinos, we do not offer them the same courtesy. Many hotels have bilingual employees on property to assist when necessary, but few, if any, have a communications department with the sole purpose of providing translation services to our international guests.

English has been accepted as the worldwide language for business communication, but when a guest visits our hotel/casinos they find that our pace of conversation is much faster than they expect and we continuously use slang terms that are very confusing to them. When your guest can't keep up with the conversation or asks you to slow down, many employees are known to show their frustration. Hotel information, menus, city information, credit information, and casino policies must be offered in a wide variety of languages.

While these guests may speak English, they are more comfortable reading and speaking their own language. If you want to attract players from China, offer the finest Chinese food available. To the Chinese, food is an art and one of the things of which they are most proud. Food and health are very important to Asian players. In fact, the informal greeting between two Chinese friends is "Chi le ma"? or "Did you eat"? Remember, they have been perfecting their cuisine for thousands of years and believe that their food is the best tasting and healthiest in the world. My personal experience with groups from China is that they need, even demand, to eat good quality Chinese food. And while you may have a Chinese style restaurant, the quality, selection and skill needed to prepare authentic Chinese food is daunting.

Learning Asian behaviors is vital to your success with the Asian market. It is important to train your staff to understand that we live in a diverse world. We are all ethnocentric to varying degrees. That is, we believe that the way we do things, our beliefs and lifestyles are the best and everyone else's is inferior. You must train your employees, who interact with international guests, that the rest of the world does things differently, not better or worse, just differently. Cultural differences have been around for centuries and continue to influence decisions made by Asian players as to where they are going to stay, eat and play. You must create an atmosphere of cultural understanding and respect or your attempts to create and expand your Asian market will fail.

Developing long term relationships with Asian players requires an investment of time and effort. Most casinos hire Asian hosts to "handle" Asian players. While this practice may be necessary to coordinate the full time hosting of players it is also necessary for all hotel and casino executives to learn the skills needed to develop relationships with players. Proper greetings, manners, levels of respect, gift giving, and dining room etiquette are the basic skills that must be understood.

Learning cultural values and beliefs will give you the opportunity to develop your market like never before. For example, if you understand the need for "Guanxi" (gwaan-shee) with your Chinese player then you are gaining ground. Guanxi is "working through connections." Las Vegas was built on the phase, "Can you do me a favor?" In China, doing favors and repaying favors is an integral part of the culture. The more Guanxi you have, the more important you are in the community. Therefore, if a Chinese player asks you for a "favor" then you are becoming involved in their Guanxi network and you should do your best to grant the favor. But, if the favor is too difficult for you to grant, then you must also be careful how you refuse the request or you risk the possibility of disrupting your relationship.

Another closely related cultural concept is "face" or (mianzi). Most Asians are intensely concerned with their own status, integrity, and dignity. Thus, "face" is the perception of persons and identifies "who they are" in respect to everyone else. You must never cause the "loss of face" of one of your players. Never deny them a request in front of their companions; do not create a situation that will turn into a confrontation. Speaking too frankly is something to be avoided. Beating around the bush or avoiding unpleasantness is a basic communication skill in China. You must be extremely polite and even avoid unpleasant responses or decisions that can cause a player potentially to lose "face." Therefore, if you create an atmosphere where a player can be confident that he will be in a casino where his Guanxi is strong and he will be treated with great respect then he will develop a strong relationship with your operation.

Other culturally important events that affect the Asian player are holidays. You must know the d

Date Posted: 30-Jan-2000

Andy Nazarechuk, Professor
International Tourism,
University of Nevada, Las Vegas

 
 
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