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Gaming Commission approves Hard Rock’s acquisition of The Mirage

Updated December 16, 2022 - 5:56 pm

The chief executive of Hard Rock International vowed Friday that the company will not close The Mirage as it guts the entire three-wing resort and invests billions of dollars to expand and upgrade the property.

“No. 1, it’s important for us to go on the record, 100 percent, we are not closing the building,” Hard Rock International President and CEO James Allen said in testimony Friday to the Nevada Gaming Commission, which approved the licensing of Hard Rock International to operate The Mirage.

“There’s no intention at this time to close the building,” Allen said. “We certainly are like any company. We will look at the construction schedule, we will look at the economy, whether there is or is not a recession and a year and a half from now or so probably would be the timeframe that we would evaluate what makes the most sense.

“But I want to go on the record, there is no closure. The last thing that we want is for 3,500 employees to have uncertainty and as a matter of fact, as I testified in the previous hearing, we’ve actually extended the Beatles ‘Love’ show,” Allen added.

Friday’s special meeting of the gaming commission was requested by Hard Rock to accommodate next week’s planned closing of the $1.08 billion sale of The Mirage from MGM Resorts International to the Florida-based Seminole Indian tribe, the owner of Hard Rock. The transaction is expected to close Monday.

“We are eager to finalize the purchase of The Mirage and look forward to welcoming the 3,500 team members to the Hard Rock family soon,” Allen said in a statement issued after the unanimous vote of approval.

Two hours of testimony

In a two-hour hearing that duplicated much of the testimony presented Dec. 7 to the Nevada Gaming Control Board, Allen said Hard Rock doesn’t expect to begin renovations on The Mirage until 2024.

“Our design and construction should be done sometime next summer, in that July or maybe August period,” he said. “From that time, it will take three to four months to bid the drawings.”

When the resort expands, Allen said, it will go from 3,044 rooms as The Mirage to 3,640 rooms as the Hard Rock; 836 slot machines to 2,000; and 51 table games to 212. The casino will be enlarged from 94,000 square feet to 174,000 square feet while the convention space will grow from 200,000 square feet to 283,000 square feet. The theater will go from 3,278 theater seats to 6,265 and 18 food and beverage outlets to 21.

Allen said Hard Rock will replace one iconic feature — The Mirage volcano — with another — an all-suites tower in the shape of a guitar. Allen said Friday he hopes the tower, which has yet to be approved by the Clark County Commission, would be between 600 and 700 feet tall but the company would follow whatever the county dictates. By comparison, the tower at Fontainebleau is 735 feet tall.

The guitar tower will have a rooftop pool and landscaping. Allen said there would be an infinity edge to the pool similar to the pool at Marina Bay Sands in Singapore “where you literally will feel like you’re swimming off the side of the building, but I assure you we will not allow the guests to do that.”

Allen said Hard Rock is working with MGM to find new homes, preferably in a natural environment and not as an entertainment attraction, for the animals currently housed at The Mirage. The property currently has a collection of dolphins, tigers and jaguars that were displayed in habitats and at the Siegfried and Roy’s Secret Garden attraction.

‘Love’ show extended

Allen also said the Hard Rock has signed an agreement to keep the Cirque du Soleil Beatles-themed “Love” show at the property.

BetMGM will continue to operate the race and sportsbook at the property.

When Hard Rock takes possession of The Mirage, the property’s loyalty club will change from MGM Rewards to Hard Rock’s Unity program. Allen said customers would not lose any of their earned points when the transition occurs and they’ll be able to be used at other MGM properties.

Allen told commissioners his company had the opportunity to acquire the former Hard Rock Hotel in Las Vegas, but passed in favor of a Strip location.

The Hard Rock location that is now Virgin Hotels Las Vegas was operated by a different company that shared the name brand. The Seminole Tribe-owned Hard Rock only received contractual approval to operate gaming west of the Mississippi River in 2020.

Allen said the company did not steer Florida customers that spent an estimated $700 million annually on trips to Nevada to the other Hard Rock-branded properties, but will once the company completes the closing of the deal.

The city will now get a brand that has 300 locations in 70 countries with 50,000 employees that produce 30,000 live music events a year and is the largest owner of music memorabilia in the world. Allen said 140 million people patronize Hard Rock a year and in 2022, the company generated more than $6 billion in annual revenue.

Commissioners had few questions of the individual licensing applicants, which included several members of the Seminole Tribe seeking approval as members of the board of managers that oversees the subsidiary that will be operating the casino.

The five commissioners were impressed with Hard Rock’s philanthropic, diversity and inclusion efforts. Allen said the company lives the Hard Rock mottos of “Love All Serve All,” “Save the Planet,” “All Is One” and “Take Time to Be Kind.” Allen said celebrity musicians who have embraced the Hard Rock’s philosophies are not paid by the company, but they voluntarily participate in fundraisers through Hard Rock for a variety of charitable causes.

Contact Richard N. Velotta at rvelotta@reviewjournal.com or 702-477-3893. Follow @RickVelotta on Twitter.

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