China Factor in Vegas

With the help of a federal government program called EB-5, which rewards foreign investors with legal residency, more and more Chinese businesspeople are bringing their money stateside. Las Vegas has been a big beneficiary.

As Vegas goes East, the Chinese head West

Are Chinese investors behind the recovery in Las Vegas?  According to the Las Vegas Sun, the answer is a resounding “shi,” or “yes.”

The Chinese helped bankroll the $415 million SLS Las Vegas, and money from China is behind  the $120 million transformation of the Lady Luck into the Downtown Grand. The Sun reports that Chinese investors are also buying in to the residential sector, as well as funding Chinese-produced entertainment, including stage shows like the new “Panda!” at the Palazzo.

“As the Chinese middle class grows, investors are getting more savvy as to how to get their money overseas,” said David Jacoby, director of the Las Vegas NV Economic Impact Regional Center. “Las Vegas is a stable place to park your money.”

Using a government program called EB-5, which gives green cards to foreign investors, Jacoby hopes to raise $200 million from the Chinese to develop two resorts in Las Vegas. The Sun reports that more than 8,000 EB-5 visas were issued last year by the Department of Homeland Security, compared with just 502 in 2006. A significant plus for businesspeople: anyone who invests $500,000 in the United States earns legal residency.

“Chinese money is continuing to find its way in to the United States, because they view it as a more secure and lucrative investment,” said Jeremy Aguero, principal of Las Vegas-based Applied Analysis.

Even as casino operators from the U.S. are developing in Asia, especially Macau, “Far East investors see the American West as the new frontier of opportunity,” the Sun reported.

“Las Vegas has not only developed as a gambling capital yet moreover an entertainment & exhibition center,” asserted Zhao An, a native of China & director of “Panda!” “This will unquestionably attract more & more Chinese investors to Las Vegas.”

Shuyen Cheing, CEO of Fortune Gaming, has attracted several hundred willing investors, mostly from China, for his development project, a proposed $300 million off-Strip resort to be called Dynasty.

“Chinese investors are looking for places to invest outside of China,” he said. “It is complex to find any acceptable projects anymore in China so they come to the United States.”

About 85 percent of all EB-5 investors are Chinese, who are drawn by the comparatively low property values (a development in Las Vegas would cost one-eighth of what properties cost in overdeveloped Beijing).