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Controversial Bar Owner in Downey, Ojos Locos, Opening Casino in La Vegas

The adult bar that open in Downey to the shock of Downey residents, approved by the City Council and Planning Commission, is now opening a casino in Vegas.

The restaurant chain is making a foray into Nevada but with a side of gambling. The whole project will be marketed to Las Vegas’ local Latino community and provide a diverse array of entertainment options for the audience.

Diners in neighboring ArizonaNew Mexico, and Texas are already familiar with the Ojos Locos brand. The restaurant operates 22 locations across those states. It has become somewhat polarizing since the first location opened in Dallas in 2010.

For example, residents in Downey  opposed the potential opening of a location there earlier this year. LCCN reported that Downey residents felt uncomfortable with the restaurant due to the provocative attire of the wait staff.

So far, that hasn’t been an issue on Las Vegas’ north side. According to Richard N. Velotta of the Las Vegas Review-JournalFifth Street Gaming is collaborating with Ojos Locos on a project there. The current Lucky Club Hotel & Casino will undergo a rebrand and renovation. It means big things for Ojos Locos in more ways than one.

Fifth Street, which makes its headquarters in Vegas, currently operates seven other properties in Nevada. Examples include the Downtown Grand Hotel & Casino and the Silver Nugget Casino.

Velotta reports that the renovations should complete in December. So far, it’s uncertain whether the entire property will bear the Ojos Locos branding. When complete, though, the property will contain the largest Ojos Loco restaurant yet and the first in Nevada.

Also, on the property will be 10,000 square feet of casino games. Fifth Street will devote the same square footage to entertainment spanning both an indoor and outdoor venue. Whether Ojos Locos will be integrated with the on-site gambling is unclear.

All aspects of the property will likely stick close to Ojos Locos’ theme, however. In fact, the choice to partner with Ojos Locos seems very deliberate on the part of Fifth Street Gaming.

Ojos Locos became popular by embracing Latino culture. Patrons often find Spanish-language broadcasts of soccer matches on the televisions at restaurants, and Spanish is the most common language among diners. Fifth Street wants to bring those same dynamics to this new casino.

“We are gratified to join together on this endeavor with Ojos Locos, a vibrant and growing brand which has, over the last 12 years, established itself as a national leader in providing authentic hospitality experiences to the Latino community,” said Seth Schorr, CEO of Fifth Street Gaming.

“Their expertise, combined with our 15-year record of producing successful events designed for the Latino audience in Southern Nevada, makes them the ideal partner in this first-ever Latino-focused integrated gaming, dining, and entertainment venture.”

With few experiences in the gambling industry specifically tailored to the Latino community, Fifth Street could fill a niche. Some statistics suggest the opportunity could be quite ripe.

The numbers suggest that failing to market entertainment programs and venues directly to the Latino community is a failure indeed. A Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute study showed:

  • Hispanics represent the second-fastest-growing and second-largest ethnic group in the United States
  • Latino people will represent almost 29% of the US’ overall population by 2060
  • Members of the community will comprise one out of every two new workers entering the labor force by 2025

Despite that prominence, the Center for Talent Innovation’s research showed disproportionate responses to a survey of Latino people. Among the findings were that over 76% of the respondents said they “expend energy repressing parts of their personas” in social situations like workplaces.

The aesthetics and atmosphere of Ojos Locos restaurant and casino venue could lend toward Latino people feeling that their culture is embraced and celebrated. That could, in turn, be good for the bottom line. Patrons could be more likely to spend their money and time in such a setting plus do so in greater amounts.

At the same time, the targeted marketing inherent in this business comes with some special considerations. As with all other forms of gambling promotion, there is a serious responsibility element.

Researchers have also been looking at how Latino cultures intersect with problem gambling issues. The New York Council on Problem Gambling, for instance, identified four cultural factors that can affect gaming pathologies for Latino people.

To mitigate the risks, the NYCPG recommended special interventions like providing materials on problem gambling in Spanish. With Fifth Street’s experience running casinos and the obvious target audience, in this case, not providing such materials would seem a huge oversight.

With such interventions available, though, this new casino project will hopefully become a place where Latino Nevadans and visitors to Las Vegas can revel in these new offerings.