In the days before the Chinese New Year celebration began this week, gamblers – primarily from Asia – are flocking to Las Vegas to play baccarat and providing a big lift to the overall bottom line of the city’s casinos.

This game has easily surpassed blackjack in terms of casino revenue in Las Vegas and now represents nearly 60 percent of the MGM Grand’s table games revenue over the past year. It’s especially popular this week with tens of thousands of tourists from Asia in town to celebrate the Chinese New Year. In Vegas parlance, a “whale” is a big-time gambler who easily wagers more in one night at the tables than most US families make in a year. And the majority are from Asia.


Baccarat has been the most lucrative table game since 2009, and has been increasing its share since then, according to an analysis of gambling revenues by Dave Schwartz, director of the Center for Gaming Research at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas. That’s even though the game isn’t widely offered, he said. “The real high-end play is happening in maybe six or seven casinos,” Schwartz said.


“For us to make money in gaming today without baccarat is almost impossible,” Debra Nutton, senior vice president of casino operations at the MGM Grand hotel-casino, told the Associated Press. “We need the big whales to make money.