87°F
weather icon Partly Cloudy

Mohegan Gaming to manage Virgin Las Vegas when it opens in 2020

When the Hard Rock Hotel transitions to Virgin Hotels Las Vegas next year, the casino will be run by a tribal gaming enterprise, a first for Las Vegas, the company announced Tuesday.

Mohegan Gaming and Entertainment, developer of the Mohegan Sun hotel- casino in Uncasville, Connecticut, will operate the 60,000-square-foot casino pending approval by Nevada regulators through an agreement with Hard Rock owner JC Hospitality LLC.

Terms of the agreement were not disclosed.

“Mohegan Gaming & Entertainment, as an extension of the Mohegan Tribe, pride themselves on traditional principles, in sync with modern values,” said Richard “Boz” Bosworth, president and CEO of JC Hospitality. “We are excited that Virgin Hotels Las Vegas will be their first entry in the Las Vegas market.”

Mario Kontomerkos, CEO of Mohegan Gaming & Entertainment, said aligning the Mohegan brand with Virgin will extend the property’s brands into a “legendary global entertainment capital.”

“Together with Virgin Hotels, experience seekers all over the world will have the opportunity to partake in an extraordinary guest journey that only our strategic alliance can deliver,” he said.

The Hard Rock will close in February for an eight-month renovation, then reopen in late 2020 as Virgin Las Vegas. The property will be affiliated with Curio Collection by Hilton, an upscale brand.

Virgin Hotels, founded by entrepreneur Richard Branson in 2010, announced in 2018 that it would acquire the Hard Rock. Branson has often expressed his fondness for Las Vegas, launching the city’s first nonstop air service from London on Virgin Atlantic Airways, initiating one of Virgin America Airlines’ first air routes between San Francisco and McCarran International Airport and rappelling off the Rio in one of his classic stunts.

Branson also is invested in Virgin Trains, which intends to begin building a high-speed rail line between Southern California and Las Vegas next year.

Kontomerkos said Mohegan’s participation in the project is a major milestone for all tribes.

“As a company, this is our first foray into the Las Vegas market, which is important to all the entertainment destinations we want to be in.” Kontomerkos said in an interview last week. “This obviously opens that up for us, but the other big milestone is that this is going to be the first time that a Native American tribe is operating in the Las Vegas Strip market. That’s a huge milestone not only for us, but all of Indian country as well.”

Strong on entertainment

Kontomerkos didn’t offer any details about what venues within the Hard Rock would be preserved in the Virgin property, but he noted that Mohegan has been on the front end of entertainment and he expects that to continue.

“We have one of the busiest arenas of its size (in Connecticut),” he said. “Entertainment for us is probably one of our biggest calling cards. We’re one of the biggest providers of headliner entertainment in the industry with more than 1,500 shows per year. You can imagine that the fact that there’s a very successful venue there for concert entertainment is very appealing to us, so I think you’re going to see more of that concert entertainment as we play a part in this.”

Mohegan’s 1,600-room resort in rural Connecticut is the company’s flagship. Located on the banks of the Thames River on the forested 240-acre reservation, Mohegan Sun’s best suites, including the 4,200-square-foot Royal Suite, have views of southern Connecticut’s foothill landscape.

The 12,000-seat Mohegan Sun Arena at the resort is home to the WNBA Connecticut Sun basketball team — one of four teams currently in the WNBA playoffs along with the Las Vegas Aces.

A centerpiece attraction off the main hotel lobby is “River Blue,” a 10,000-pound glass sculpture by Dale Chihuly, the artist who created the multicolored glass ceiling piece above the front desk of Bellagio in Las Vegas. The 2,500 blown-glass pieces were assembled at the base of Taughannick Falls, a 55-foot indoor waterfall representing a treacherous crossing of converging waters during the tribe’s migration.

‘Powerful opportunity’

Mohegan is in a major growth spurt and owns or operates properties in Atlantic City; Pennsylvania; Louisiana; Niagara Falls, Ontario; and is developing a resort in Incheon, South Korea. The company expects to compete for licenses in Greece and Japan.

Kontomerkos expects the international exposure will help draw customers to Las Vegas through the company’s Momentum loyalty-card program.

“We’ve got access to very affluent and very mobile demographics, global demographics,” Kontomerkos said. “When you add that together with Virgin, which also has a very significant, similarly positioned database with all its businesses, I think you have a very powerful opportunity to drive some new visits and new customers into Las Vegas to this property.”

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

Don't miss the big stories. Like us on Facebook.
Business Videos
Southern Nevada could set a new resale-price record in coming months.
The median sales price of previously owned single-family homes – the bulk of the market – was $310,000 in September. Before the economy crashed last decade, prices peaked in June 2006 at $315,000, according to the Greater Las Vegas Association of Realtors.(Bizuayehu Tesfaye/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @bizutesfaye
Walmart container park in Henderson - VIDEO
Henderson could be home to a container park associated with a Walmart Inc. initiative. (Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Recession lessons could help Las Vegas face next slump - VIDEO
While the last economic downturn had a dramatic impact on local casinos, most experts expect the industry will be better able to weather the storm during the next recession. (Mat Luschek / Las Vegas Review-Journal)
MGM and victims of Oct. 1 reach settlement agreement - VIDEO
MGM Resorts International and lawyers representing potentially thousands of victims of the Oct. 1, 2017, mass shooting on the Las Vegas Strip have reached a tentative settlement of between $735 million and $800 million. (Mat Luschek /Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Live music and EDM dominate the night on day 2 of A’Le’Innstock
After sunset bands rocked the crowds at A’Le’Innstock in Rachel, Nevada on the second night of the event.
iPhone 11 Release
Local Las Vegas long time Apple product consumer shares her excitement for the new iPhone 11 release Downtown Summerlin. (Elizabeth Page Brumley/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Lihi Levin talks about a mobil app Dropit - VIDEO
Lihi Levin, regional manager at Dropit Shopping, talks about a mobil app Dropit. The app lets customers leave their shopping bags at a store then have them delivered the same day to their home or hotel so they can shop without carrying multiple bags all day. (Bizuayehu Tesfaye Las Vegas Review-Journal) @bizutesfaye
North Las Vegas company prepares for Mars - VIDEO
Robert Bigelow and his Bigelow Aerospace manufacturing facility played host to eight NASA astronauts and 60 engineers this week getting to know the company’s B330 autonomous, expandable space station. (Elizabeth Brumley/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Las Vegas developer talks about a new apartment complex called “the yoU”
Frank Marretti lll, founder of G2 Capital Development, talks about his new apartment complex called “the yoU” near UNLV. (Bizuayehu Tesfaye/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @bizutesfaye
Steel cables will hoist roof at Allegiant Stadium - VIDEO
Stainless steel cables are being put into place at Allegiant Stadium to begin the process of putting the roof on the 65,000-seat stadium in Las Vegas. Stadium Chief Operating Officer Don Webb explains how the cables will be used to get the roof put on the future home of the Raiders and UNLV football. (Heidi Fang/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
The last remaining Sigma Derby game in Las Vegas
Derek Stevens, owner of the D Las Vegas, talks about the last remaining Sigma Derby horse racing game in Las Vegas inside his casino floor. (Erik Verduzco/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Popeyes Spicy Chicken Sandwich Review
Janine Blake of Las Vegas gives her review of the new Popeyes Spicy Chicken Sandwich at the restaurant’s location on west Bonanza Road on Thursday, Aug. 22, 2019,
SuperZoo 2019 takes over Mandalay Bay in Las Vegas
SuperZoo 2019 show for pet retailers brought pet products of all description to the Mandalay Bay Convention Center in Las Vegas. (Heidi Knapp Rinella/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
MSG Sphere at The Venetian to cost $1.2B plus
Scheduled to open in 2021, it is expected to be busier than Madison Square Garden in New York. (Michael Quine/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Favorite products from SuperZoo 2019
Some of the fun and interesting pet products on display at the SuperZoo in Las Vegas at the Mandalay Bay Convention Center. (L.E. Baskow/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
MAGIC Convention Day 3
The fashion trade show MAGIC, held Monday through Wednesday at the Las Vegas Convention Center. (Elizabeth Brumley/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
MAGIC Las Vegas - Day One
The biannual MAGIC convention show opened Monday at the Las Vegas Convention Center. (Elizabeth Brumley/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Allegiant celebrates naming deal with tailgate party
Allegiant Air employees celebrate with a tailgate party after the company’s naming deal with the Raiders for the new Las Vegas stadium.
Nevada's sportsbook operators welcome competition
Sportsbook operators from near and far are looking to get into in the established Nevada market, experts say. (Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Get a first look of MSG Sphere construction in Las Vegas
Representatives of The Madison Square Garden Company give the first glimpse of progress Tuesday of the under-construction MSG Sphere — a first-of-its-kind performance venue with high-tech audio and visual capabilities.
There's a new place to play board games in Las Vegas
Matt Smiciklas, co-owner of Boarding School Games, talks about the new Las Vegas business that he co-owns with Emily Labejof. Dedicated tabletop gamers can choose from more than 500 games to play for free in-store. The doors open to the public Saturday, July 20, 2019. (K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @KMCannonPhoto
Renovations at the STRAT
Analysts say the $140 million renovation project at The STRAT, formerly the known as the Stratosphere, could help the hotel-casino compete with the evolving north side of the Las Vegas Strip. (Bailey Schulz/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
THE LATEST
Gaming expo draws thousands seeking new products, technology

The star attraction at the Global Gaming Expo on Tuesday was the show floor, with nearly 400 exhibitors showcasing the latest technology, slot machines, skill-based gaming, table games, kiosks, payment systems, casino furnishings and more.