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Best of Liz Benston

Gaming Guru

Liz Benston

Plaza Hopes Strategy Will Woo Growing Hispanic Community

5 April 2005

Over the next several weeks, the Plaza hotel and casino expects to introduce Hispanic-theme slot machines, Spanish-speaking blackjack dealers and soccer games in its sports book in an effort to attract Hispanic customers.

Those are just a few of the signs of a larger, long-term initiative to reach out to the Hispanic community that will include commitments to hire and promote Hispanics and becoming involved in local Hispanic service organizations, said Stephen Crystal, president and co-founder of Plaza owner Barrick Gaming Corp.

"Other casinos have brought in Latino pop stars on a one-off basis or had a Latino (boxing) card or a salsa nightclub on a one-off basis," Crystal said. "We view this as a long-term effort. The entertainment will be the outgrowth of making the commitment to be a part of the Latino community."

Over the next couple of years, the company intends to redevelop about six city blocks and about 15 acres surrounding the company's Western casino into a "Latino corridor" that will include commercial and residential buildings. As the final piece of the redevelopment project, the Western will ultimately be transformed with a Hispanic theme within three to five years, Crystal said.

Starting this month, the Plaza will show soccer games and list soccer betting lines to lure Hispanic bettors with snacks including Cuban sandwiches and green chiles.

The property's glass-domed Center Stage restaurant will host "Escalandos," an event featuring DJs and live music every Saturday night.

Some slot makers are introducing Hispanic-theme slot machines using celebrities to attract the growing Hispanic population, Crystal said.

Research has shown that Hispanic customers like to gamble as much as non-Hispanics but few casinos go out of their way to cater to them on a regular basis, he said.

Downtown Las Vegas already attracts a diverse crowd ranging from white Midwesterners to Hawaiians and Asians, he said.

"What we set out to do is try to do something that hadn't been done before and truly make Latinos one of the groups we cater to," Crystal said.

Barrick Gaming is active in the U.S. Hispanic Chamber of Commerce and attends meetings of the Las Vegas Latin Chamber of Commerce, he said. The company expects to make donations to organizations and become more involved on the political front with leaders who are identified with causes important to the Hispanic community, he said.

The Plaza has already offered some special events that appeal to Hispanic customers. Last year the property hosted rooftop pool parties sponsored by Spanish-language radio station Super Estrella. Those parties will begin again in May.

The company also has hosted a few boxing events in partnership with Spanish-language networks Telemundo and Univision. Two upcoming fights, April 29 and May 13, will feature boxers that will draw a Hispanic audience, Crystal said.