LAS VEGAS, Nev. (AP) _ Squeezed out of South Florida by increased federal pressure, drug dealers have discovered this gaming mecca as a popular place to transact business and, at the same time, have a little fun.

Authorities say dealers, looking for new spots to make major transactions, are lured to the Las Vegas area by a combination of factors, especially the glittering lifestyle and the relative anonymity that a city crowded with tourists provides them.

''They like to party, they like to play the tables and they like to cavort with the ladies of the night,'' said Fred Ackermann, a supervisor with the Nevada Division of Investigations. ''These are pretty flashy people, if you know what I mean.''

Several recent major cocaine and methamphetamine busts barely scratched the surface of the large-scale drug dealing that authorities believe goes on behind locked hotel room doors.

''It's a great place to meet and operate in an area where they're not known,'' said Joe Catale, agent in charge of the Drug Enforcement Agency's Las Vegas office. ''If a guy has a bunch of heroin in New York and wants to move it to California, they meet here. We don't know either of them and they can operate under a cloak of anonymity.''

In a town that runs on cash, drug dealers also find it easy to carry large amounts of money, and sometimes launder it, without attracting much attention.

New reporting regulations on exchanges of more than $10,000 in cash at casinos may limit laundering, but authorities say it's almost impossible to distinguish between a cash-carrying gambler and a drug dealer.

''If you land in Portland, Ore., with $400,000 in cash in a briefcase, you'd have a hard time explaining why you have that much cash,'' said Ackermann. ''But here it's not uncommon to come through the airport with thousands in cash that you're taking to the tables to gamble with.''

Although federal prosecutors indicted two Royal Casino executives on charges they laundered $390,000 through the casino's cage, the men were found innocent last September. Authorities say they believe little, if any, organized money laundering is done inside casinos.

Instead, they say, drug dealers may exchange some of their proceeds for casino chips and, after a period of gambling, exchange the chips for other ''clean'' money from the casino.

''I don't think you have casino involvement,'' said Ackermann. ''The casinos have too much to lose - primarily their gaming licenses - to be caught in an activity like that.''

''You get indications there is some laundering,'' added Catale. ''But you don't know if it's on a regular basis or on a hit-and-miss basis.''

Drug agents say the recent crackdown on drug smugglers by a federal task force in the Miami area prompted them to look elsewhere to make their deals. The dealers apparently find the 24-hour activity of Las Vegas alluring.

''They come in here and live very high while they do their transactions in hotel rooms,'' said Metro Police Lt. Mike Manning, who heads the county's narcotics unit. ''They especially like the big events, like title fights, where there's a lot of people in town and they can do their business unnoticed and maybe see the fight too.''

The vast desert areas surrounding the city offer almost unlimited landing spots for aircraft bringing in drugs. Authorities say a plane loaded with drugs can fly beneath radar detection to any one of hundreds of possible landing sites in southern Nevada, unload and be on its way within 20 minutes.

''We're seeing the increase in cocaine coming from South America,'' said Manning, whose department helped the DEA bust a shipment of 85 kilos of cocaine from Bolivia flown to an airport in neighboring Henderson. ''That kind of shipment before would have been sent to the Southeast but now it's starting to come to this area.''

Manning's agents, in a joint operation with Los Angeles police, recently broke up a methamphetamine operation and confiscated enough chemicals to make $63 million of the drug, two truckloads of manufacturing equipment and portable buildings. Manning said the confiscated material was being taken to a remote desert site in northern Arizona where the drugs would actually be made.

Though more drug traffickers are apparently plying their trade in the Las Vegas area, they have not been met with a corresponding increase in federal, state or local drug agents.

''They figure it is a little safer out here than in Miami,'' said Catale, who has a staff of eight federal agents in his office.

''We're trying to work hard to stay on top of it but we don't have the resources the dealers do,'' added Manning. ''We're trying to not let this become another Miami with gang wars and shootings and that type of stuff.''