Last year, the head of marketing for Primm Valley resorts pitched his boss on an $85,000 entertainment act to fill the 6,500-seat arena at Buffalo Bill's, one of three budget hotels the company operates in Primm.
It seemed a princely sum to pay for a portly accordion player with Elvis-style sideburns and gaudy western wear who sings in Spanish — a man neither he nor his boss had ever heard of before.
Vice President of Marketing Stuart Richey was willing to wager that the accordionist, Ramon Ayala, would attract a sellout crowd of gamblers and help fill the company’s hotels on the California-Nevada border, 45 miles from Las Vegas.
Ayala, a star in his native Mexico, has made more than 100 albums over his nearly 50-year career playing a style of music called “norteño” for its origins in northern Mexico. Although still foreign to American ears, its polkalike beat has grown ubiquitous on U.S. radio stations and in cities large and small that are now home to the country’s swelling Mexican-American community.
The Oct. 16 Ayala concert, which drew 10,000 people to the three Primm casinos that weekend, was a landmark moment for Buffalo Bill’s — and a lesson for Nevada’s struggling casino industry.
“It was like New Year’s Eve, only busier,” said Richey, who previously ran the marketing department at Stratosphere before joining the Primm chain in 2009. “We realized there was pent-up demand for this kind of experience.” READ MORE