Council approves event tent at Virgin River casino

Saying it would better equalize the available facilities across town, Richard Tomasso, Mesquite Gaming Vice-President of Government Affairs, laid out his company’s plans to build an event tent at the Virgin River casino at the Mesquite City Council meeting, Tuesday, Nov. 14.

Without much discussion or question, three councilmen, Rich Green, Dave Ballweg, and George Rapson, unanimously approved the facility’s conditional use permit request. Councilman Geno Withelder was absent from the meeting and Councilman Brian Wursten recused himself from the issue because he is an employee of Mesquite Gaming.

The event tent will be constructed on the back side of the Virgin River casino just off the newly remodeled kitchen and other restaurant outlets. While the facility is labeled a temporary structure, Mesquite City Development Services Director Richard Secrist and Tomasso said it’s actually more than that since it will have a permanent foundation and footings with the rest of it anchored to the ground.

The structure will be much like the CasaBlanca event tent but will have a direct entrance and exit to the Virgin River casino itself. Image Building Systems based in Phoenix, Arizona, will construct the facility. The fabric has a 20- to 25-year life span. The structure must be re-approved every five years by city council as the CasaBlanca event tent is now.

By comparison, the Virgin River tent will be a 10,000-square foot facility while the CasaBlanca event tent is 33,000-square feet. Both facilities must comply with all building and fire safety codes and both will be inspected every five years by a structural engineer. It is similar to the event tents at the South Point casino in Las Vegas.

“The Virgin River doesn’t have a showroom,” Tomasso said. “We have a state-of-the-art showroom at the CasaBlanca. We need a showroom at the Virgin River so we can bring in higher class entertainment and other functions like reunions, weddings and others.”

Mesquite Gaming was approved to build a 10,000 square foot event tent facility at the Virgin River casino, similar to this photo. The tent will be constructed behind the casino with direct access between the two buildings.

Richard Tomasso, Mesquite Gaming Vice-President of Government Affairs, laid out his company’s plans to build an event tent at the Virgin River casino at the Mesquite City Council meeting, Tuesday, Nov. 14. Photo by Barbara Ellestad.

He explained that while the CasaBlanca has convention facilities, the Virgin River does not. Adding the event tent would allow the company to bring in more conventions, corporate meetings, or retreats.

Tomasso said seldom do tourists and residents who frequent the Virgin River on the north side of the interstate visit MG’s other casino, CasaBlanca, on the south side. Those who frequent the CasaBlanca seldom visit the Virgin River. “They are two different demographics,” he said, adding that MG wants to provide the same kind of facility that CasaBlanca patrons have for the Virgin River.

Tomasso said that “the mission of Mesquite Gaming is to grow this community by attracting business and settlement. If we can do those two things, Mesquite becomes larger and stronger. In turn, Mesquite Gaming becomes larger and stronger. More people will be hired and there will be more income for the city [through tax revenues].

“For the last six months, there have been rumors and gossip all through Mesquite that Mr. Toti [Anthony Toti, CEO and part owner of Mesquite Gaming] was going to sell the Virgin River and CasaBlanca. This couldn’t be further from the truth. He has invested 10 years of his life and closing in on $10 million to refurbish and improve both the CasaBlanca and Virgin River. Just go back to his Gaming Control Board testimony and it shows he is committed to this city and these casinos. You don’t tell the Gaming Control Board lies.”

In response to a question from a private citizen, Toti explained that completing the permanent event facility at the CasaBlanca that was begun many years ago would cost his company $22 million.

“As the economy gets better, we’ll eventually build out that event center,” Toti said. “But I can’t do that right now because of the money I need to spend to update our current facilities. The Virgin River tent is $700,000 [construction cost]. But what it brings to the city will enable the city to grow and it will enable us to grow. It will enable us to build the permanent structure. In my mind, we will build that structure.”

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