Well worth $99, Casablanca bouncing back beautifully

Feb 18, 2014 3:00 AM

During its heyday, then-owner Randy Black would star in numerous commercials promoting his Casablanca and Virgin River properties in Mesquite.

All was good until bankruptcy hit.

Now there’s new ownership, less on flamboyant more on the message. And that is to re-establish plus produce a superior product. Welcome, Anthony Toti.

“The new ads are more traditional,” said Chris Lazzara, system analyst at Casablanca. “You won’t see Anthony Toti. He’s not Randy Black, or John Barr. He would rather just show pretty girls and images of great golf courses.”

The new promotion is “Las Vegas, The Way It Used To Be.” It’s an appropriate approach for Mesquite, which indeed is what Vegas was – a town of 20,000 that pushes golf, casino bargains, low room rates and sexy women.

“The commercial and newspaper ad we have running shows that Casablanca is the place for the best $99 package available – a room, round of golf and either pedicure, Swedish massage or facial.”

The resorts are just 90 minutes northeast of Vegas and bring in many customers from St. George (Utah), California, Arizona, Idaho and Wyoming plus Las Vegas locals.

“The reaction we’ve had to the package has been very positive,” said Lazzara, who first began at Casablanca parking cars in valet. “Our bookings for the package have gone through the roof.”

There is a lot of history to Casablanca, first purchased by famed talk show host Merv Griffin, who at that time called his property Players Island. Randy Black eventually bought it from Griffin and changed the name to Casablanca.

Black took a big hit during from the economic crush of the mid-2000’s and eventually filed bankruptcy. Enter Toti, whose purchase two years ago is now bringing the Casablanca properties back to the popularity they once enjoyed.

“We renovated the spa and are currently renovating the rooms,” Lazzara said. “We own two 18-hole championship golf courses. The Casablanca is 18 holes along the Virgin River. Palms has a front nine that’s an old fashioned grass layout with wide fairways and a back nine that’s typically desert golf with different elevations and peak canyons.”

Golf is what made Mesquite, long known as the home of the national long driving contest. Though the finals were recently moved to the Las Vegas Motor Speedway, the early rounds are still contested at Casablanca.

“When the finals were set for November, it just wasn’t the right time of the year for us,” Lazzara said. “The September early rounds work out much better. That was the reason for the move.”

Toti is pushing golf, no doubt, but he wants the property to be known for more. Enter the ad campaign and planned expansion that includes an entirely new slot floor, improved hotel rooms and an upgrade to the Virgin River Casino.

“We want to show that Mesquite is a nice affordable getaway,” Lazzara said. “I see our market growing. We would like to see a 50-50 split between golf and our spa. Our gaming revenue is getting back to the 2004 and 2005 numbers.”

Casablanca can also house 5,000 for major events like golden gloves, MMA events and entertainment acts that play Vegas venues like South Point.

“The old regime tried to book big time acts and it didn’t work,” Lazzara said. “We closely resemble the South Point and the philosophy of Michael Gaughan. A number of our people worked for Michael at one time. We’re getting the word out that Mesquite is back.”

Mark Mayer has over 35 years covering sports events and is the sports editor at GT. Reach him at [email protected].

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