Most people -- and there are an estimated 15 million visitors annually -- come to this fast-growing desert city to gamble and attend conventions.

On a given day, this southwest Nevada city may be populated by as many as 60,000 visitors in 40,000 hotel and motel rooms. And most of the visitors contribute to the billion-dollar "gaming industry" that provides an estimated 30 percent of the state's total revenue.Visitors also pay a 5 percent room tax on their hotel-motel accommodations.

However, four Las Vegas business men met the press during a recent convention of home builders and emphasized that the gambling capital of the U.S.A. is also working successfully to attract new industry and business. Levi Strauss, Montgomery Ward and Buster Brown Textiles were among those mentioned as recently choosing L.V. bases for operations.

"We have a favorable tax climate -- no income tax, none on inventory and relatively low realty taxes," said realtor Charles Ruthe. "But it is difficult to convince the businesses being courted that the gambling will not result in the moral deterioration of their employees. We insist that our local residents do not gamble."

Members of the panel, including a builder (Albert Collins), a savings and loan executive (Sherman Miller), and a hotel architect (David Mason), agreed with Ruthe that Las Vegans do not participate in the city's prime reason for being. The gaming is directed to the visitors who encounter it at the airport and also find casinos overwhelming hotel lobbies.

Bright, blinking lights identify the places of chance and entertainment 24 hours a day. "You never see a clock in this town," almost anyone will tell you. That's because gaming is a 'round-the-clock business. You have to look sharply to find a hotel registration desk, a bar or a coffee shop. But you can't miss seeing the slot machines, the blackjack, poker and crap tables.

Builder Al Collins recalled that there were only 40,000 residents in Las Vagas when he arrived in 1952. Now, he said there are 375,000. Another estimate put the area-wide head count at 425,000. Collins said he started as a roofer and then got into building houses. He said the median price for single houses is now $61,000 and $57,400 for attached units, up from $47,500 and $44,700 in 1977.

The market for homes, new and existing, was reported strong, with some new houses being in the $200,000 range. But there's also a major market for mobile (sometimes called modular or manufactured) homes on their own lots. Many are priced under $20,000.

According to a recent edition of Professional Builder magazine, the advantages of the L.V. market include lower costs in land, quick approvals of building permits, easy transportation to California markets (an estimated 65 percent of Las Vegas visitors come from California) and housing less expensive than in most areas.

Taxi-drivers and waiters tend to be new Nevadans. A sampling turned up several from New York City and Texas. Why do they go there? One said: "It's not hard to make a buck here."