March 6, 2021

Casino Town Puts Its Money on Hispanic Market

But as the economy took a dive, this desert spot suffered the same economic woes as its larger, flashier neighbor. And the troubles were exacerbated by the proliferation of Indian casinos in California, which offered much of the same attractions as any town in Nevada. The company that ran the trio of casinos here declared bankruptcy in 2009.

Now Primm Valley Casino Resorts is betting that aggressively courting Latinos in Southern California will help lead to success.

They have blackjack games with bilingual dealers and rules printed in Spanish on the tables, the first casinos in the state to do so. Last year, they began a series of concerts featuring popular Spanish-speaking musicians, which fill the arena to capacity nearly every time. On those weekends, the casino floor of Buffalo Bill’s buzzes with an energy that executives say rivals New Year’s Eve.

“People have always said things like, ‘That demographic doesn’t gamble,’ ” said Jay Thiel, the vice president of casino operations, who has worked in the industry for more than 30 years. “But we looked around one day and realized that that’s who was here. We had no idea how wrong that idea was.”

If any Latino organizations see a downside to this, they have not spoken out. Many Latino leaders say they are delighted with the attention to Hispanic consumers and have not expressed fears about introducing gambling into their lives.

Mary Cuadrado, an associate professor of criminal justice at University of Texas at El Paso who has studied Latinos’ seeking treatment for gambling addiction, said, “The issue is not that people are going to become suddenly addicted, but there is evidence that Latinos are less likely to look for treatment if they do have a problem.”

 Stuart Richey, the assistant general manager and vice president for marketing at Primm Valley, said that while it had marketed to other niche demographics, like country music fans and retirees, “no other group has inspired this much change in the way we do business. The impact is really just staggering.” 

When Espinoza Paz, a Mexican pop singer and composer, played to a nearly sellout crowd last weekend, every one of the resort’s 2,600 rooms was booked. 

“People in Vegas would kill for those numbers,” Mr. Richey said. 

The ways that the hotel has shifted to cater to that market can be spotted everywhere — there are countless signs in Spanish: “Juegue blackjack en su idioma,” one announces — “Play blackjack in your language.” Another wishes diners “buen provecho.” Managers are trying to find more dealers who speak Spanish, so they can teach those more comfortable with slots how to put down at least $5 a hand at a card table. The casino bar band has conga drums and roaming cocktail waitresses offering shots of top-shelf tequilas. 

“It feels comfortable here, like we’re welcome and we belong,” said Pascual Campos, 45, who came from Palmdale, Calif., with his mother, his cousin, his wife and their two children. “I don’t pay for rooms, I don’t pay for meals, I don’t pay for concerts. I just pay to play 21. They treat me like a king for that. Of course I want to come back.”

Many of the guests coming in for the weekend were something of regulars. Like its counterparts in Las Vegas, the hotel tries to cultivate a kind of loyalty among gamblers by offering free meals, rooms and other perks to those who spend the most money. Here, someone who spends $1,000 in a weekend is seen as a high roller. In Las Vegas, that kind of spending would not even catch a pit boss’s eye. Clearly, one of the main goals of the marketing is getting people through the casino doors who might not otherwise be there, or at least not as often.

While the casino has put considerable effort into the Spanish-speaking tables, the slots are the game of choice here. There are scores of penny slots. “You don’t need to spend a lot of money to win,” said Lourdes Peña, 26, sounding like a commercial for the casino as she instructed her friend Maria Ramirez, 24 and a gambling rookie, to stick with two slot machines at a time.

But there are times when gambling can feel beside the point. Children run freely through a video arcade, the line for the buffet stretches 100 people back and the area around the bar becomes an impromptu dance floor. Nobody seems to mind.

The moments before the concert began looked like something like a multigenerational fashion show — little girls in sparkling lacy dresses, women in figure-flaunting dresses and stilettos, men in rhinestone-encrusted belts and pointy snakeskin boots (the same kind Espinoza Paz favors). The elderly women using canes and wheelchairs donned perfectly pressed pantsuits.

The crowd screamed out the lyrics along with the singer, and he was soon taking dozens of adoring fans onstage. A couple of especially eager women tossed their undergarments to him, prompting the singer to invite them onstage and croon a few bars to them. There were more than a few infants in the arms of their mothers, who eagerly danced to the band, which included a robust horn section.

The first time the casino executives saw this kind of crowd last fall, they were taken aback. That concert, which featured the Mexican country singer Ramon Ayala, has taken on almost legendary status among the executives. None of them had even heard of the accordion-wielding singer, but the show drew a sellout crowd. More than three quarters of the casino’s slot machines were occupied — more than double a usual “good night,” Mr. Richey said.

As the show ended Saturday night, dozens of fans stayed inside the arena to pose for pictures with the performer, who was happy to oblige. But the bigger crowd was already back in the casino. Within a few minutes, the slot machines that had sat unoccupied for the last couple of hours were all filled. The visitors, now lubricated with a few more shots of tequila, were eagerly feeding the slots.

Article source:

Speak Your Mind