weather icon Partly Cloudy


In her six years as director of Virgin Valley Family Services, Shawn Hotch had never seen anything like what greeted her when she arrived at work Tuesday morning.

"It looked like a DMV line," Hotch said about the crowd that had formed outside the nonprofit’s tiny Mesquite office by 8 a.m., an hour before the office opened.

The people waiting to get inside were all from the Black Gaming’s Oasis hotel-casino, which announced Monday that it was laying off 500 workers while it suspends operations of the resort’s casino and restaurants. Most of the property’s hotel rooms were closed beginning Friday.

"This is frightening because this is just Mesquite," said Hotch, who oversees an office that helps families weed through unemployment applications, food stamp applications and other social services.

She and the office’s one caseworker saw 60 people Tuesday, although Hotch said other people saw the line Tuesday morning and left. On a normal busy day the office handles about 20 people.

David Bly, editor and general manager of the twice-weekly local newspaper, Desert Valley Times, said the community was shocked by the announcement by Black Gaming, the city’s largest employer.

"Everybody’s trying to figure out what it will mean," Bly said. "What will this do to business? Will this be a spiral downward or will people rally and unite the community?"

City government, local churches and nonprofits are rallying to help the city of 20,000 deal with what the mayor described on Thursday as an "unprecedented event that has people really fearful."

"Our community is fairly small so this is something that everyone is talking about," Mayor Susan Holecheck said. "What are we going to do? How does it affect other businesses? What about these families that aren’t going to have as enjoyable a Christmas?"

Holecheck has been in contact with state unemployment officials about traveling the 80 miles northeast on Interstate 15 from Las Vegas to help the affected workers with claims.

Mesquite Stake President Craig Hafen said Mormon Church leaders are pushing a monthly meeting up to Sunday to discuss the layoffs.

"We’re very concerned about people’s well-being," Hafen said.

Hotch believes the layoffs will cost the city some families.

"There is no way that those 500 people can go somewhere else in Mesquite and get a job," he explained. "It’s hard enough for anybody to find one, let alone so many people."

If families do have to leave the city, more job losses could follow.

Holecheck noted that the area could lose teachers if families have to pull students out of school to move to new jobs.

The Oasis has been winding down operations since the announcement was made Monday.

The casino’s 27 table games were shut down then, and on Thursday, slot technicians began removing money and shutting down a few slot machines. The restaurants also were slowly winding down operations Thursday.

After Friday, the property will maintain a block of 100 of the Oasis’ 900 rooms for walk-in customers. The Denny’s, which is near the casino but is owned by an outside company, will also remain open, Marty Rapson, Black Gaming’s vice president of marketing, said Thursday.

There were no signs hanging advising customers about the closures, but long-time Oasis workers chatted with frequent customers about the uncertainty that awaited them once they finished their shifts Friday.

Workers, however, were reluctant to talk to the media for fear of not being brought back if the hotel-casino should reopen or jobs become available at the company’s other two Mesquite properties — Virgin River and the CasaBlanca. The company said all the laid-off workers have been put on a list to be rehired when, or if, the property increases operations.

Two workers quoted in the Mesquite paper’s Friday edition declined to use their real names.

"They don’t want to go on the record," said Bly, who came to Mesquite from Calgary, Ontario, in 2006. "And that’s part of the story."

Despite the layoffs this week, there is still a feeling of optimism that the small town will rally.

"Five hundred jobs in a town this size is a disaster," Bly said. "Also, at a town this size people can help each other. There’s a good spirit of people saying let’s do something, let’s stick together, help each other.

Contact reporter Arnold M. Knightly at aknightly@reviewjournal.com or 702-477-3893.

Don't miss the big stories. Like us on Facebook.
Business Videos
How much do Las Vegas casino CEOs make?
Las Vegas gaming CEOs made anywhere between $1 million and $24 million last year, according to company filings with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission. ((Las Vegas Review-Journal)
30-year-old Rio needs a little TLC
Nearly 30 years after the Rio opened, the red and blue jewel that helped catapult Las Vegas to a new level with its buffet and nightclub has lost its status along with its shine.
The latest on the Drew Las Vegas - VIDEO
Eli Segall recounts his tour of the Drew Las Vegas, formerly the Fontainebleau, on the Las Vegas Strip. (Michael Quine/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Pinball Hall of Fame to move near south Strip
Operators of the Pinball Hall of Fame have been approved to build a new, larger arcade near the south edge of the Strip on Las Vegas Boulevard near Russel Road. (K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @KMCannonPhoto
National Hardware Show underway Las Vegas
The National Hardware Show kicked off Tuesday at the Las Vegas Convention Center (Mat Luschek / Review-Journal)
Caesars for sale?
Caesars Entertainment Corp. has been swept up in takeover speculation since the company’s share price tumbled last year amid disappointing earnings and concerns over a recession. Amid the decline, hedge funds scooped up shares. Billionaire activist investor Carl Icahn began buying shares of Caesars as early as January. Icahn acquired nearly 18 percent by mid-March. In February Icahn called on the Caesars board to study a sale as a way to boost shareholder value.
Las Vegas home prices
Las Vegas home prices grew fastest among major markets in February for the ninth straight month. But amid affordability concerns, the growth rate has slowed down. Southern Nevada prices in February were up 9.7% from a year earlier, according to the latest S&P CoreLogic Case-Shiller index. The last time Las Vegas' price growth fell below 10% was in September 2017, S&P Dow Jones Indices reported.
Free Parking Coming To Wynn
Free parking will come to the Wynn and Encore resorts on May 1, 2019. (Mat Luschek / Review-Journal)
Founding Venetian employees talk about 20 years at the Strip resort
The Venetian, which opened May 3, 1999, is celebrating 20 years on the Las Vegas Strip. Seven original employees talk about opening the luxury resort and working there for two decades. (K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @KMCannonPhoto
Circa aiming for December 2020 opening
The 1.25-million-square-foot property will have 44-stories and 777-rooms. It will also have a separate nine-story, 1,201-space parking garage.
Boxabl official explains the building concept
Boxabl business development manager Galiano Tiramani shows off a room built by his company. (Blake Apgar/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
TI/Mirage Tram reopens
The tram that shuttles guests between TI and Mirage reopened this week after being closed for much of 2018.
Las Vegas Convention Center expansion taking shape
Renderings and actual footage show how the Las Vegas Convention Center is evolving.
Former Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz at Las Vegas convention
Former Starbucks CEO and potential presidential candidate Howard Schultz spoke at the Epicor Insights user conference at Mandalay Bay Convention Center Wednesday, April 17, 2019. (K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @KMCannonPhoto
Drew Las Vegas to open in the second quarter of 2022
The 67-story Drew Las Vegas is slated to open in the second quarter of 2022 at the north end of the Las Vegas Strip. (Michael Quine/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
NAB Day 1 (Time Lapse)
NAB kicked off at the Las Vegas Convention Center on Monday, April 8, 2019. (Mat Luschek / Review-Journal)
National Association of Broadcasters Show shows 1mm thick 8K TV with 22.2 channel digital sound
Japan’s NHK Science & Technology Research Laboratories booth featured a 1mm thick 8K TV system used in conjunction with a 22.2 channel digital sound system at the National Association of Broadcasters Show at the Las Vegas Convention Center. (K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @KMCannonPhoto
Nevada shoppers react to Smith’s no longer accepting Visa credit cards
On March 1, Smith’s announced that it would no longer be accepting Visa credit cards at any of its 142 supermarkets, including the 45 in Nevada.
Massachusetts Gaming Commission asks how long Wynn executives knew about misconduct
Business reporter Rick Velotta gives an update on the adjudicatory hearing on the suitability of Wynn Resorts to retain its gaming license in Massachusetts.
Henderson app developer part of Startup in Residence
Henderson based developers of the app On Point Barricade are taking part in Startup in Residence, a North America program dedicated to pairing tech companies with governments. (K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @KMCannonPhoto
Sam's Town employees and customers talk of their love for the iconic casino
Longtime Sam's Town employees and customers love each other and love their casino. (K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @KMCannonPhoto
Las Vegas apartments rents
Las Vegas’ apartment market has accelerated in recent years. Developers are packing the suburbs with projects, landlords are on a buying spree, and tenants have filled buildings.
William Boyd talks about the birth of Sam's Town
On the eve of the 40th anniversary of Sam's Town, William Boyd, executive chairman of Boyd Gaming and son of hotel namesake Sam Boyd, talks about how the casino became one of the first local properties in Las Vegas. (K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @KMCannonPhoto
High Roller observation wheel turns five
The world’s tallest observation wheel celebrates it’s fifth year on Sunday, March 31, 2019. (Michael Quine/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @Vegas88s
Escape Room Industry Growing In Las Vegas
Escapology employees discuss the growing escape room industry in the U.S. and Las Vegas. (Bailey Schulz/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Impact of parking fees on visiting the Las Vegas Strip
There are no data showing a relationship between Strip resort and parking fees and the number of out-of-state visitors to Las Vegas. But there are data showing a relationship between Strip parking fees and the number of local visitors to the the Strip. ‘’As a local, I find myself picking hotels I visit for dinner or entertainment, based on whether they charge for parking or not,”’ said David Perisset, the owner of Exotics Racing. ‘’It is not a matter of money, more of principle.’’ A 2018 survey by the Las Vegas Global Economic Alliance found 36.9 percent of Clark County residents reported avoiding parking at Strip casinos that charge for parking. 29.1 percent reported avoiding using any services from a Strip casino that charges for parking.
MGM's sports betting deals
MGM Resorts International signed a sports betting sponsorship agreement with the NBA in July It was the first professional sports league to have official ties with a legal sports betting house. The deal came just two months after the U.S. Supreme Court overturned a law prohibiting sports betting in most states. In October, MGM became the first gaming company to sign a sports betting partnership with the NHL. In November, MGM became the first gaming company to sign a sports betting partnership with the MLB. Financial terms of Tuesday’s deal and earlier partnerships have not been announced.
Faraday puts Las Vegas land on the market
Nearly two years after Faraday Future bailed on its North Las Vegas auto factory, the company has put its land up for sale. (Michael Quine/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
El Cortez owner Kenny Epstein on running the iconic property
Kenny Epstein, owner of the El Cortez Hotel in downtown Las Vegas, talks about Jackie Gaughan mentorship and answers rumors about bodies in the basement at the mob-era casino. (K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @KMCannonPhoto
LVCVA recommends construction of underground people mover
The Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority announced the recommendation for an underground people mover for the convention center. The system would have the potential to expand and connect Downtown and the resort corridor all the way to McCarran. (Michael Quine/ Las Vegas Review-Journal)