Question of the Day December 8, 2016
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Q:Given the heavily Hispanic population of Nevada and nearby California, has there been any talk of a Hispanic-themed casino? I do not consider the Fiesta casinos to be aimed at Hispanics short of the name.
A:No, they're not, though Fiesta parent Station Casinos, like other locals casinos, is making an effort to market to Latinos.
Fiesta Henderson was originally an African-themed casino, The Reserve, when Station acquired it in a property swap with Ameristar Casinos. At the same time, Station bought George Maloof out of the original Fiesta in North Las Vegas, which was not particularly Hispanic in flavor beyond having one of the valley's best Mexican restaurants, Garduño's. The Reserve was retrofitted with the Fiesta brand in a successful attempt to reposition the failing casino with locals.
"We’ve made a greater effort at Texas Station, Boulder Station, and Fiesta Rancho to have more authentic offerings geared to the Latino community, of which there's a large population surrounding each of these properties," says Station spokeswoman Lori Nelson. "We speak both English and Spanish in many of our marketing materials, as well as have many of our team members who speak both languages."
In addition to making the Cabo and Garduño's menus "more authentic," Station has ramped up its Hispanic-themed entertainment, with shows Bailongo a la Mexicana, Super Bailongo and Super Sabado de Fiesta. ("Bailongo" essentially means "Dance Party.")
"We have partnered with the family who owns and operates La Bonita Super Markets," Nelson continues, "to develop cross-promotions between our two companies and we recently participated in their annual 'Trunk or Treat' event," the latter being a Halloween get-together when children go from car to car in a parking lot to collect candy, events popular as a safe form of trick or treating.
Last year, Station also sponsored a Hispanic Heritage Month film festival at Texas Station. The company has periodically participated in Day of the Dead and Dia del Niño celebrations. Earlier this year, the company experimented with "Loteria" -- Mexican-style bingo games -- at Texas and Boulder Stations, although Loteria has not become a permanent offering yet (but still might).
Although there has been talk of a Latino-targeted casino, so far it's only been that (and here again Station plays a role). When the Castaways was seized in 2004 by lender Vestin Mortgage, Vestin initially planned to sell it to the owners of the Bighorn and Longhorn casinos, who planned to cater the Castaways to a Latino clientele. After all, it sat in a heavily Latino neighborhood. However, Station came along with a higher offer for the derelict casino and that was the last anybody heard of a Spanish-first casino. Station imploded the Castaways in 2006, but none of its subsequent plans for the site bore fruit and it's just a big empty lot these days.
Although it's not overtly marketed as a resort for Latinos, Circus Circus made headlines recently for its popularity with that demographic.
MGM Resorts International CEO Jim Murren told the Las Vegas Review-Journal that the clown-themed casino was the most popular of the company's 10 Strip properties with Latino customers. "It turns out that the family orientation, which is a Circus Circus hallmark, is a major component to attracting Hispanic customers," said Murren.
This may explain, at least in part, why Circus Circus continues to survive in a neighborhood where it’s surrounded by demolished (Riviera), unfinished (Fontainebleau) and in-progress (Resorts World Las Vegas) casinos. The strong Latino draw, Murren said, had caused MGM to take a step back from doing anything drastic to the clown house, although it continues to fine-tune the product.
By contrast, Caesars Entertainment doesn't, by its own admission, do a great deal to court the Hispanic demographic. It concentrates its efforts on luring it with entertainment, whether one-offs like Mexican Independence Day or returning performers like Jennifer Lopez and Pitbull.
A more assiduous, Latino-targeted, marketing effort is made by Boyd Gaming, its big draw being Sam's Town. In addition to starting to advertise in Spanish-language newspaper El Tiempo, the casino has been running commercials for over a year on Spanish-language radio stations.
Boyd spokesman David Strow says the casino "frequently" hosts entertainment aimed at the Hispanic customer, who is also important to the Sam's Town meetings business, as it hosts dozens of quinceañeras (the celebration of a girl’s 15th birthday) every year. "The Latino community is a particularly important demographic for Sam's Town, and a good deal of that property's marketing and advertising efforts are aimed at that customer group."
So we seem to be at a tipping point where the Hispanic-American customer will become as important as the Chinese or Japanese one, but we’re not there quite yet. (Mexico is also one of Las Vegas' primary fly-in markets.) However, it will probably take a brave lone-wolf operator (like Lucky Dragon's Andrew Fonfa) to make the transition from a Latino-marketed casino to one overtly themed for the Spanish-speaking customer.