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Oasis’ liquor and gaming licenses extended through July

The Mesquite City Council Tuesday night extended the Oasis’ liquor and gaming permits through July.
The continuance allows the property to keep its bars closed and run reduced hotel operations without losing its licenses.

The council granted an 180-day extension, beginning from Feb. 1, meaning the city permits now will run through July 31 before the hotel’s owner, Black Gaming, will need to request another extension.

Marty Rapson, Black Gaming’s marketing vice president, said the extension gives the company additional time to evaluate options for the property.

The extension doesn’t mean the property will stay closed through July if demand returns before then.

“It’s quite capable at any time, if demand is there, to reopen,” Rapson said. “This is just a technicality within the city. We just needed to extend these licenses because we’re not there yet. The demand is not there.”

Visitor volume to the city of 20,000 dropped 35.7 percent in December and 10.5 percent last year, according to numbers released Tuesday by the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority.

Local room rates in 2008 dropped 33 percent, to $53.19 per night, while occupancy dropped 6.8 points to 78.3 percent.

Black Gaming closed the Oasis’ table game operations, company-owned restaurants and a nightclub Dec. 19, under a bank agreement that has been since updated three times. The current agreement is scheduled to expire today.

The Oasis, located 80 miles north east of Las Vegas along Interstate 15, reduced the number of operating slot machines from 750 to 144, and closed most of the 900-room hotel, a move that reduced the casino’s staff by 340 workers.

Company officials told the City Council that while the hotel remains available, between 15 and 40 rooms are being used nightly, with the majority of customers being directed to Black Gaming’s two other properties, the Virgin River and the CasaBlanca.

Rapson said the Oasis used 400 rooms during the weekend of Jan. 16, when the city hosted its Mesquite Motor Mania Weekend.

The Oasis’ city gaming permit is separate from the nonrestricted gaming license the property holds with state regulators.

City ordinances state that a nonrestricted gaming license needs to be supported by 400 operational hotel rooms.

Gaming Control Board Chairman Dennis Neilander said in January that regulators have been receiving regular updates on the property’s status to ensure the casino stays in compliance with state regulations.

The reduction of casino operations came as Mesquite’s gaming revenue continues to decline.

The city’s gaming revenue in December fell 25.11 percent to $10 million, numbers released Wednesday by gaming regulators show.

Gaming revenue in 2008 dropped 12 percent to $144 million from $163.7 million in 2007.

Black Gaming owns three of the four hotel-casinos in Mesquite. The fourth, the Eureka, is owned by the Las Vegas-based Lee family.

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

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