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Howard Stutz

Randy Black out as COO of Mesquite Gaming

9 October 2013

Randy Black, the face of Mesquite’s casino industry since the 1990s, is no longer associated with the casino company that he founded.

Black, who appeared in numerous local television commercials touting the small-town atmosphere of Mesquite, has retired as chief operating officer of Mesquite Gaming, LLC, according to a memo sent to employees of the Casablanca and Virgin River casinos late Monday.

Mesquite Gaming was created in 2011 following the bankruptcy reorganization of Black Gaming. Randy Black remained on as COO and retained a 10 percent ownership stake in the company. Mesquite Gaming is 40 percent owned by Newport Global Advisors LP, a Woodlands, Texas-based investment company. Mesquite Gaming Chief Executive Officer Anthony Toti owns 25 percent of the company and South Point Casino owner Michael Gaughan owns 25 percent and operates the two casinos’ race and sports books.

Mesquite Gaming also owns the shuttered Oasis Casino, which was demolished over the summer.

Toti said in the three-paragraph statement that Black was “looking forward to putting his considerable energies in new directions and spending more quality time with his family.”

Toti, who unavailable for comment, said in the memo that Black had “been an invaluable part of the company for 23 years.”

Black couldn’t be reached for comment. It is unclear what will happen with Black’s ownership stake.

Mesquite, located off Interstate 15 and roughly 90 miles from Las Vegas, grew beyond its days as a truck stop surrounded by farms and dairies into a retirement community with affordable single-family homes lining a half-dozen golf courses with a burgeoning gaming market.

Black, whose voice remains on the telephone hold message for the casinos, reflected the laid-back atmosphere of Mesquite as a weekend getaway for residents of Nevada, Utah and Arizona. His folksy television commercials, which often showed him driving through the Casablanca casino in golf cart, carried the tagline, “it’s Mesquite.” The spots advertised the community as being different from casinos on the Strip or the Las Vegas locals market.

A real estate developer in Las Vegas, Black built the Virgin River in 1990. Soon after, he acquired the Oasis from gaming pioneer Si Redd. In 1997, he bought the Player’s Island from Merv Griffin’s company and renamed the property the Casablanca Resort, Casino, Golf, & Spa.

Black Gaming operated the unfinished Mesquite Star for a short time as a nongaming hotel, but the building has since closed and been sold.

Mesquite Gaming also owns two of the city’s golf courses.

In 2007, Mesquite’s casinos reached an apex of almost $163.7 million in gaming revenues, more than doubling the market-measuring figure over a 10-year period.

The recession, however, sent Mesquite’s gaming industry on four-year downward spiral.

Gaming revenues fell almost 27 percent between 2007 and 2009. The Oasis reduced operations in 2008 and closed in 2010.

Mesquite gaming revenues were $117.5 million in 2012, up 0.5 percent over 2011. Through August, however, gaming revenues in Mesquite are down 5.2 percent compared with the same eight months of 2012. The market has suffered through 12 consecutive monthly declines.

In an interview in February for the Las Vegas Business Press, Black said the town’s fortunes mirrored the rest of the gaming industry. Customers were visiting but spending less.

“Mesquite is a unique place that always has been the perfect getaway for golf, spa, and great food all priced right, served by nice folks in a small town,” Black said. “It’s the way Vegas used to be.”

Black and his wife filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy protection in July 2012 in the midst of a Bank of America lawsuit over a Summerlin office building.