Strolling along Las Vegas' hotels, casinos and shopping malls is to invite a sense of dj vu: Haven't I run into some of these same commercialized sites in China's big cities?
This confusion, together with my probe into how deeply Chinese have influenced the local habitat, accompanied me throughout my visit.
Evidence on the surface is pretty convincing: private Chinese gaming salons offered at top-tier casinos, Chinese-themed festivities and performances promoted through a variety of channels, Mandarin-speaking shop clerks cordially doting on deep-pocketed mainlanders, not to mention the few most widely acclaimed restaurants featuring Chinese chefs and cuisines.
The city is also offering a casino and hotel specifically for Chinese visitors, the Lucky Dragon Hotel & Casino, which is majorly financed by Chinese investors and set to opened last December. Las Vegas' first-ever Asian-themed resort, the 203-room facility features bilingual staff and signage, a luxury tea bar and authentic Chinese food with the same dishes found in Guangzhou, Shanghai or Beijing.
Meanwhile, another Asian-themed resort much bigger than Lucky Dragon, the Resorts World on the North Strip, broke ground early this year and is expected to open in 2019. A $4 billion project, the property will have 3,200 rooms and feature Chinese architecture, including an ersatz Great Wall.
I can't help but wonder what other factors are coming into play - besides the obvious one that there are no gamblers in the world like the Chinese when it comes to baccarat, the most lucrative game in Las Vegas, and casino operators know it.
The influx of China's direct investment and throngs of tourists have surely contributed to the strong influence of the Chinese in the state of Nevada and Sin City.
Take the annual Consumer Electronic Show (CES), the world's biggest trade event of its kind, which is held in Las Vegas and is already 50 years old. For the 2017 show, China sent 1,575 exhibitors, or 41 percent of the total, according to the Consumer Technology Association.
Luo Linquan, China's consul general in San Francisco, flew to Las Vegas for CES week in January to meet with representatives of leading Chinese companies.
"You are at the forefront of constructing a stronger and closer China-US relationship through business and trade," Luo said at a "China Night" banquet to salute the achievements of Chinese companies. "CES is a good showcase of China-US cooperation."
He also visited officials of the state and city governments. In a conversation with Nevada Lieutenant Governor Mark Mutchison, Luo said, "China and Nevada should work more closely on the tourism and convention industry," adding that the potential for future cooperation in the sectors of tourism, culture, exhibition and hospitality was tremendous.
Carolyn Goodman, mayor of Las Vegas, said her city would make a continuous effort to push forward pragmatic bilateral cooperation, and Las Vegas welcomed Chinese enterprises to invest locally and create local jobs.
Last December, China's Hainan Airlines announced the launch of a non-stop flight between Las Vegas and Beijing three times a week, connecting the "global leisure-industry focal point" with the capital of the world's second-largest economy.
Chinese visitors had already reached around 210,000 last year, according to the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority. Hainan's new route not only cuts travel time but it is expected to introduce millions of prospective visitors to Las Vegas and generate approximately $33.5 million in visitor expenditures each year.
The international marketplace is key to Las Vegas' success in the future, both on the leisure side as well as the convention side, said Rossi Ralenkotter, president and CEO of the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority.
"We know that the growth market in the future is going to include China," Ralenkotter said.
Contact the writer at junechang@Chinadailyusa.com.