INSIGHT: Catering to fast-growing Hispanic population makes dollars, sense

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The Hispanic population has always been a coveted market in Las Vegas for its contributions to industries that sustain the hospitality industry, like services and construction. But in recent years the community, which comprises a quarter to a third of Clark County's population, has seen its stock rise.

More casinos are competing to host events like quinceaneras, a girl's 15th birthday celebration, and tourism and hospitality officials are redoubling efforts to host events that cater to Hispanics.

Since September, Las Vegas has become a second home for top Hispanic musicians: Luis Miguel, Alejandro Fernandez, Enrique Iglesias, Marco Antonio Solis and Vincente Fernandez have drawn sold-out crowds at some of city's top venues. And a tradition of Southern California-based Hispanics visiting Las Vegas for boxing bouts involving Mexican fighters continued with the Dec. 6 fight at the MGM Grand Garden Arena between the sport's biggest star, Oscar De La Hoya of Mexico, and Manny Pacquio of the Philippines.

Las Vegas has been the top domestic destination for Hispanics living in the United States U.S. for the better part of this decade, according to the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority. Last year, Hispanics spent nearly $2 billion on gaming and nongaming related items.

The casino industry has taken notice. Small properties like the Silver Saddle exclusively target Hispanics. Larger ones, like downtown's Plaza, debuted Hispanic-themed slot machines, Spanish-speaking blackjack dealers and soccer games in its sports book in 2005.

A trio of small-casino operators briefly flirted with turning the Castaways, on Boulder Highway, into Vegas' first hotel-casino marketed directly to Hispanics, before Station Casinos bought the acreage. The gaming company hasn't decided on what to do with the land.

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