By Mei-Yu Lee
I’ve never been the luckiest person when it comes to gambling. However, I was beginning to feel some luck coming my way when I knew I was going to interview the Mohegan Sun, Vice President of International Marketing, Ernie Wu, for my next assignment.
I headed to Flushing on a freezing cold weekend with a blizzard forecasted to blast through the Northeastern part of the U.S. The bus for Mohegan Sun was scheduled to leave at 11 AM. I arrived in Flushing 5 minutes to 11, assuming I had made it on time. However, when I stepped on the bus, everyone was waiting for me. “You have to arrive 15 minutes earlier,” said the ticket collector. I was embarrassed — I had delayed a bus completely full with passengers eagerly waiting to depart. Later, I found out that 49 other buses ran between Mohegan Sun and Chinatown and Flushing, along with some other buses from Massachusetts.
After two hours, the bus arrived at Mohegan Sun. Located in Uncasville, Connecticut, along the banks of the Thames River, the casino resembles a pyramid rising from a lifeless desert. Mohegan Sun is the second largest gaming space in the United States. It is comprised of three gaming sectors: Casino of the Earth, Casino of the Sky, and Casino of the Wind, which opened in 2008.
I first arrived at the Casino of the Earth’s Sunrise Square, a gaming area exclusively designed for Asian guests. It’s also a place where many exotic games with an Asian twist can be found. Upon entering, I was flabbergasted at the scene before me: numerous Asians crowding the mini-baccarat and Pai Gow poker tables, filling the large room with the rapid sounds of Cantonese and Mandarin. The scene was almost exactly identical to my Lunar New Year family celebration back in Asia: my relatives shouting and laughing as they gathered together to play Pai Gow poker; the children hunched over at the New Year delicacies table nearby, hoping that their parents would win so they could receive more gifts. These events remain the only time I’ve been able to indulge in splashing around some money without having to worry about going broke.
According to Ernie Wu, Vice President of International Marketing, 70 percent of the Asian customers are Chinese. To satisfy their tastes, the Sunrise Square is filled with the same Asian-themed games that many customers “used to play when they were kids.”
One can also find other exciting games at Mohegan Sun, including slot machines, poker, blackjack, roulette, craps, and other casino favorites.
After a very satisfying winning streak, I decided to take my winnings into Mohegan Sun’s shopping area, where one can find high-end boutiques like Coach and Tiffany & Co, or buy a book from Spin City and spend hours reading it at Starbucks. My journey continued as I wandered around Mohegan Sun’s three enormous casinos. I was amazed by the glowing 3-story-high crystal mountain at the Casino of the Sky, and by the traditional Mohegan Tribe decorations at the Casino of the Earth, where history and culture of its kind vividly came to life. I was told that every detail of the decorations at Mohegan Sun had its special meaning.
However, I didn’t have much time to find out the story behind each one as I rushed to my next destination: the Elemis Spa & Salon, where I pampered myself with luxurious spa treatments and relaxed from the intense excitement of the casinos. Mohegan Sun is like a mini New York City, where one can find cuisines from different countries. Specifically, the 4,000-square-foot Sunrise Square Food Court offers Asian fusion cuisine, where customers can select from a wide variety of culinary choices, such as Chinese, Japanese, Korean, Thai and Vietnamese. “We only bring the best dishes to our customers,” said Mr. Wu.
After being immersed in a wonderful spa treatment, I headed to Bar Americain, a newly opened restaurant owned by celebrity chef Bobby Flay. I’ve been to many restaurants in New York City and devoured a lot of delicious food, but I have to confess, the service in Bar Americain was the best I’ve ever experienced. The waiter patiently explained every dish without rushing me to order. From the moment I sat down, I was given the chance to relax and enjoy my dinner for three entire hours. I did not hesitate to leave a larger tip than usual for the superb service and quality of my meal.
As the night went on, I spotted many Chinese youth streaming into Mohegan Sun Arena, chattering and eager to see the concert about to be performed by Aaron Kwok, one of the most popular singers in Hong Kong. I assumed that the blizzard would scare away fans who would choose to stay home. Instead, the long line of people waiting outside the box office to buy the last-minute tickets proved otherwise. Many stylish young Chinese waited with their families, wide awake and excited for the entertaining night ahead. These loyal fans were not disappointed, as their idol gave them one of the fanciest Hong-Kong-style concerts that I have ever seen. It was still snowing outside, with almost a foot stacked on the ground, but all I could feel was the warmth radiating in the concert arena from the fans’ excitement.
As Ayesha Ma, Mohegan Sun’s Asian Advertising and Public Relations Manager, pointed out, thousands of people flooded the arena in spite of the blizzard. This is not a rare occurrence. Each year, Mohegan Sun lines up popular Chinese singers and bands to perform in front of huge, enthusiastic crowds. According to Mr. Wu, Mohegan Sun only invites the best-selling singers to perform at Mohegan Sun Arena. Last year, Jay Chou, the so-called Asian Pop King, hit the arena for his world tour concert during Christmas week. For the upcoming Lunar New Year, the Taiwanese SuperBand will be performing at the arena, which is expected to attract more middle-aged fans at the box office.
According to Kelly Leung, VP of Asian Marketing, more shows will kick off at Mohegan Sun, including the popular Filipino band “AS 1” on Feb 28th and the Taiwanese rock band “May Day” during Easter.
I woke up late the following morning, exhausted from the concert. After a light lunch, I headed back to the arena after hearing that Aaron Kwok would be selected for Mohegan Sun’s Walk of Fame, making him the first Asian to accept this privilege. According to Mrs. Ma, there will be many more Asian singers joining Mohegan Sun’s Walk of Fame in the future. In fact, in order to cater to more Asian customers, Mohegan Sun provides a“Super Tuesday” package for Asian customers only. Starting in early January, Asian guests can enjoy their Tuesdays with a variety of free gifts, free performances, and special dining options for a mere $8.88. Additionally, for the upcoming Lunar New Year, Mohegan Sun will present “Fortune Guy” who will give out red envelopes to every guest; following is the lion dance, guaranteed to send everyone into a happy and abundant Chinese New Year. After that, Superband will perform at the Mohegan Sun Arena.
Because of the previous night’s snow, many people were stranded at the casino. I sat with Mohegan Sun guests who were yawning or napping, tired from a great night of gaming and entertainment. The bus arrived back in Flushing as soon as it stopped snowing, finally returning everyone on board back home to the city. I, however, was already starting to plan my next trip back to Mohegan Sun.