Black Ends Run in Mesquite Gaming

     As seen in the Mesquite Citizen Journal 

   Just over two years after his name left the local gaming company, Randy Black, Sr, himself has departed Mesquite Gaming, LLC according to an official announcement issued late      Monday afternoon, Oct. 7.

    “It is with a heavy heart that I announce that Randy Black, Sr. has decided to retire as Chief Operating Officer of Mesquite Gaming, bringing his involvement in company operations to an  end,” Anthony Toti said in a memo to Directors and Department Heads in the company. Toti is Chief Executive Officer of Mesquite Gaming.
 “Randy has been an invaluable part of the company for more than 23 years. His hard work and personal dedication will be missed but never forgotten. Randy is looking forward to putting  his considerable energies in new directions and spending more quality time with his family. I, along with everyone at Mesquite Gaming, wish him nothing but the best in his future ,” Toti added in the statement.
Mesquite Gaming owns the CasaBlanca and Virgin River casinos in Mesquite. It also owns the now-demolished Oasis Casino that closed its doors in 2008 “purely based on the economy,” Toti told the Mesquite Citizen Journal in an interview Monday afternoon.
The company also owned the Mesquite Star casino that it sold earlier this year to Eureka Casino Hotel.
Black, the face of Black Gaming and later Mesquite Gaming in its advertising and marketing, took sole control of all four properties in 2006 when he bought out his brothers’ interests and changed the name to Black Gaming. He filed for corporate bankruptcy in March 2010. In July 2012 Black filed personal bankruptcy actions.
Emerging from the corporate bankruptcy in July 2011, the company was renamed Mesquite Gaming with Black retaining only 10 percent ownership interest. The restructured company saw new investors and new management with 40 percent of ownership held by Newport Global Advisors LP of Woodlands, Texas. South Point Casino (Las Vegas) owner, Michael Gaughan and his family, owns 25 percent of the restructured casinos. Toti owns the remaining 25 percent.
Toti joined the local casino company in 2008 initially serving as Chief Operating Officer (COO).
After the bankruptcy was finalized in 2011, Toti became CEO and Black was named COO.
When asked about Black’s 10 percent ownership in the company Toti said “there is ongoing litigation with it. When it is resolved, Mesquite Gaming will make an announcement.”
“Randy has been a good guy but he’s moved on. He’s no longer associated with the company. We wish him good luck,” he said. “We’re going in a different direction now.”
Toti told the MCJ that Tim Rambo will remain as the General Manager of the CasaBlanca Casino and Marty Rapson will stay on as the Virgin River General Manager. Scott Singer will continue serving as Assistant General Manager of both casinos.
“These are the people that are doing all the hard work for Mesquite Gaming and they are the ones you’ll see,” Toti remarked.
Toti said he will be assuming most of the COO duties once held by Black. “But you won’t see my face on any commercials or advertisements. I want the public to see the hardworking people and directors we have who are doing a good job.”
“We will be changing our advertising and marketing to reflect Mesquite Gaming and its policies of providing good value and good food at great prices with a wonderful gaming experience,” he said. “We will continue doing our best to serve the locals in Mesquite which I believe are our foundation. The local (residents) are number one in my book and we will take care of them with great food and great prices like Vegas used to be.”
He cited some of the recent promotional giveaways the CasaBlanca and Virgin River held as proof of his interest in the local gaming customers. “In September alone, we gave away 60 flat-screen TVs and 60 high-end iPads between both casinos (CasaBlanca and Virgin River). Add in the cash and free play we gave away and it totaled about $200,000 in September alone. We’ll keep doing things like that. Those kinds of promotionals are geared towards locals.
Toti explained that the decision to close the Oasis Casino in 2008 “was very difficult. But, if we didn’t close the Oasis the company would have gone broke within six months. It was costing us, out of our pocket, a million dollars a month to keep open. That’s something we could not do. To save the rest of the company, we had to close the Oasis.” While many of the 350 people employed by the casino lost their jobs, some of them were absorbed throughout the rest of the company.
The casino, originally built in 1987 by Si Redd, and purchased by Black in 2001, was demolished over the summer at a cost of one million dollars.
Toti told the MCJ that “when the economy turns around sufficiently, we intend to unveil new plans for that property. That’s why we left the sky bridge across Mesquite Blvd from the parking garage. That will feed into whatever it is we build. We are actively pursuing plans for the area. It’s a timing issue based on when the economy picks up speed. We are going to do something with that property.”
He said the last part of the demolition, taking down the old Oasis signs, is “with an engineer right now. They are trying to figure out the best way to take the signs down without doing any damage. Obviously, we don’t want the signs falling onto the Interstate.”
“We did save one piece of the Oasis that I wanted really, really bad because I like that stuff,” Toti remarked as he described how the 110 foot flag pole that sat beside the old casino was moved to the front of the CasaBlanca last week. “We are waiting on the installation of appropriate lights which should be finished next week. Then we will start flying a 20 by 30 foot flag because I’m proud of the flag and proud of our country.”
Another major change Toti explained to the MCJ is that every room at the Virgin River will be reduced to $27 a night between Sunday and Thursday and no higher than $54 on Friday and Saturday nights. “Some of the rooms went as high as $100 a night. That’s all over with. We’ve rolled back our room prices to ‘old time Las Vegas.’”
The average room rate for hotels in Mesquite have been running approximately 15 percent higher than a year ago according to figures supplied by the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority(LVCVA). Those numbers include the 1,200 rooms controlled by Mesquite Gaming and over 200 rooms at the Eureka Casino. The rest of the 1,736 rooms the LVCVA reports on are at smaller hotels around the city like the Holiday Inn Express and the Highland Resort.
Toti says the lower room rate should bring in more customers to visit the casinos and restaurants, in turn helping boost gaming revenues and restaurant profits.
He says that after 10 months of gross gaming revenue declines, “August was flat. We were up a couple thousand dollars but in September Mesquite Gaming revenue was up nicely. Since last October we have been looking at a three to six hundred thousand dollar decline every month. The recent upturn is a great thing for us.”
“We are in the process right now of renovating rooms at the Virgin River,” Toti explained. “We’re taking out the old TVs and putting in new flat screen TVs. We’re putting in new beds and carpets at the Virgin River. Free wi-fi will be coming in at the end of this month. Next year we hope to remodel all the CasaBlanca rooms.”
Perhaps the best news about the renovation and room updates is that “we’re building all of this out of our cash flows. We’re not borrowing money to do these improvements. It does take a little bit longer to do it this way but we’re not going into debt to get it done.”
“There are three major projects on the drawing board for next year that will really help this company and help take care of three very pressing needs we have,” Toti said without divulging any further details.
He also wouldn’t explain in-depth the company’s current financial picture saying simply that “we’ll have more information about it in the near future.”
For more background information, see these Mesquite Citizen Journal stories: