Leave it to the marketing genius of Native American casino operators to turn Thanksgiving, a family tradition, into one of the biggest gaming weekends of the year.
"It already rivals New Years among our Asian customers," said a spokesman for the Mohegan Sun that, like its neighbor Foxwoods Casino, busses thousands of customers of Asian descent from New York and Boston for the holiday weekend.
"It’s getting to be a tradition that Asians come here on Thanksgiving," explained Yee Leung, a promoter from Brooklyn-based International Entertainment Marketing. "It’s like a football game on Thanksgiving."
Mitchell Etess, president and CEO of Mohegan Sun, said the casinos specifically market to the Asian community which does not generally celebrate a traditional Thanksgiving like other ethnic groups.
And not surprisingly, the big games are Pai Gow poker and baccarat, both table games that historically have been favored by Asians.
As part of the marketing effort, Foxwoods features entertainers from Hong Kong and sets the ticket prices in what is considered a lucky number, "8." And the shows are scheduled for the early morning hours so that people can catch a bus after work and still arrive in time for a performance.
"They tend to come late and stay late," added Tom Cantone, vice president of marketing at Foxwoods.
However, the casinos don’t ignore their traditional customers, Cantone added. "Friday is one of the biggest gaming days of the year and we prepare for big crowds. Non-Asian customers usually start showing up after eating their Thanksgiving Day dinners."