Mohegan Gaming to Become First Tribal Casino Operator in Las Vegas With Virgin Hotels Resort

Posted on: September 17, 2019, 09:15h. 

Last updated on: September 17, 2019, 12:25h.

Mohegan Gaming & Entertainment (MGE) has reached a landmark deal that will make the company the first Native American casino operator to do business in Las Vegas.

Mohegan Gaming Las Vegas Virgin Hotels
Developers reimagining Hard Rock into Virgin Hotels Las Vegas have hired Mohegan Gaming to run its casino floor. The resort hopes to lure back Sin City guests from the Strip to its pool that was home to Rehab for 15 years before closing in 2018. (Image: Hard Rock Las Vegas)

The gaming unit of Connecticut’s Mohegan Tribe will operate Virgin Hotels Las Vegas when the rebranded Hard Rock reopens in late 2020. The off-Strip property is scheduled to close in February for eight months, as new owner JC Hospitality transforms the rock ‘n’ roll-themed resort into a Virgin-branded destination.

Assuming the necessary regulatory approvals come from the Nevada Gaming Commission, once the renovations are complete, Mohegan will assume the operations of the 60,000-square-foot casino floor. AEG Presents – no stranger to Las Vegas and the Strip, as the company handles facility management for T-Mobile Arena – has been contracted to handle management, operations, and bookings.

Mohegan Offensive

Connecticut’s two tribal casinos – Mohegan Sun and Foxwoods – are struggling. Slot revenue continues to decline, as new competition in nearby states expands.

Mohegan and the Mashantucket Pequot Tribe, owners of Foxwoods, are jointly trying to build a satellite in East Windsor, Connecticut, to keep critical gaming dollars from flowing into Massachusetts to MGM Springfield. The tribes are also mulling an integrated resort in Bridgeport should state lawmakers grant them such authorization.

The Mohegan Tribe additionally has casinos in Atlantic City, Pennsylvania, Louisiana, and Washington. Las Vegas will mark its fifth casino, but the group isn’t only focused on domestic operations.

MGE, along with fellow US tribal casino giant Hard Rock International, are the leading contenders to build an integrated resort at the former Hellenikon International Airport near the Greek capital of Athens. Mohegan Gaming is also developing a $5 billion IR at Incheon International Airport in South Korea.

Off-Strip Investments

JC Hospitality is partnering with Virgin and its billionaire founder, Richard Branson, in hopes of making the resort sexy enough to lure guests to the casino that sits roughly a mile east of the Strip. It marks Branson’s first foray into the gaming industry, something he says he’s long been interested in.

Casinos not located on the main part of the Strip have struggled in recent years. The Lucky Dragon is closed, and SLS Las Vegas – largely considered the northern end of the Strip, sans the Strat’s owners – has been sold and restored to its iconic Sahara brand.

Billionaire Treasure Island owner Phil Ruffin remains interested in acquiring a Caesars resort, should one become available, as he believes Strip assets are “irreplaceable.”

Fellow billionaire Tilman Fertitta is also keeping a close eye on a potential Strip property coming up for sale, and private equity giant Blackstone – which owns the Cosmopolitan – is said to be in discussions with MGM Resorts to buy its Bellagio and MGM Grand.

Despite the busy activity on the Strip, developers off the main drag are optimistic moving forward. Red Rock Resorts recently spent more than $1 billion to buy and renovate the Palms, and rumors continue to swirl regarding a potential sale of the Rio.