Station Casinos (NYSE:STN) is up 5% to $50.49 today after the leading Las Vegas locals casino operator posted better-than-expected earnings growth for the third quarter and forecast higher-than-expected earnings in the fourth quarter.

In the third quarter, Station saw revenues climb 11% to $242.9 million, driving EBITDA (earnings before interest, taxes, amortization, and depreciation) up 19% to a record $90.7 million. Meanwhile, excluding nonrecurring items, earnings per share jumped 31% to $0.46 per share -- ahead of the analyst expectation for earnings of $0.44 per share. Including items, earnings clocked in at $0.43 per share.

The surging Las Vegas locals market continued to drive results. Same-store revenues from Las Vegas operations jumped 14%, helping same-store EBITDA gain 27% over last year's quarter. At the same time, EBITDA margins climbed from 32.5% last year to an impressive 36.3%.

Looking ahead, things only get better. Station forecast fourth-quarter EBITDA of $94 million to $98 million. The company also expects earnings, excluding items, of $0.48 to $0.52 per share -- better than or equal to the $0.48-per-share analysts estimate. Reflecting the strong performance, Station also announced that it would up its quarterly dividend by 20% to $0.21 per share.

Station's performance reflects the strength of the Las Vegas locals market and is a good barometer of what we can expect from rival Boyd Gaming (NYSE:BYD) and its recently acquired Coast Casinos (see "Boyd Takes the Coast"). Even more important, the two companies highlight the fact that the market offers limited potential for competition -- and that both companies already own the prime real estate for development. Not coincidentally, both stocks are trading at all-time highs.

That said, there really aren't too many ways that you can look at Station Casinos and call it cheap, but the bottom line is this: Station is a leader in one of the fastest-growing markets in the country and one with significant barriers to entry.

Fool contributor Jeff Hwang owns none of the companies mentioned above.