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‘New energy’: Hard Rock Las Vegas president teases Mirage changes

Updated March 24, 2023 - 8:32 am

Hard Rock International has been operating The Mirage for nearly three months, but any significant sign that it’s under new ownership can be seen in a few spots inside the hotel-casino.

That’s because most of the initial alterations have occurred behind the scenes — operational changes such as moving the human resources department on-site, changing the IT and reservation system to Hard Rock programs and incorporating its Unity loyalty rewards program. But the hotel-casino’s leaders say they are starting to make the property their own.

Joe Lupo was tapped to be the president of the future Hard Rock Hotel Las Vegas and is leading it through its remaining years under The Mirage brand. With a resume that boasts leadership roles at Hard Rock properties, including in Atlantic City and Tampa, Florida, Lupo said he’s focused on increasing gaming volume and supporting a cohesive team.

Lupo gave an exclusive tour to the Review-Journal on Wednesday, highlighting short-term changes that’s planned for the storied hotel-casino.

Gaming volume

The biggest change at the property will be the construction of a guitar-shaped hotel. The 600-room, 660-foot-tall project — approved Wednesday by the County Commission — will replace The Mirage’s volcano attraction along Las Vegas Boulevard and it will bring Hard Rock’s famous music branding to the Strip skyline. But it’s a sight that’s a few years away.

While Lupo declined to share more details about the tower, in the meantime, he said, Mirage visitors can expect to see more gaming options.

Hard Rock will be adding slot machines, small pits and electronic table games to various spots in the casino as part of its mission to drive up gaming volume. For example, a six-table pit was recently added to the BetMGM Sportsbook, where it can capitalize on visitors lounging to watch games during March Madness and other major sporting events, he said.

Nearby, a new baccarat lounge will open March 31 with additional tables and a small pod of slot machines.

“Typically, Asian gaming is very social so we have grouped them,” he said.

Elsewhere, more slot machines will be added near the front of the property in April and May and a wall will be built to hide the now-closed buffet, with slot machines then added along the wall. Also, a table games pit near The Love Theatre, where Cirque du Soleil’s Beatles Love performs, was cleared out and replaced with slots and electronic table games to maximize on the midweek show crowd that walks by when live tables are closed.

The increased focus on games is part of the company’s growth strategy. Executives told the Nevada Gaming Commission in December the casino floor will grow to 174,000 square feet, up from 94,000 square feet, with 1,164 more slot machines and 161 more table games.

“So much of Vegas is about non-gaming revenue, but we believe we can get that back at The Mirage,” Lupo said.

A locals program on the Strip

An “aggressive marketing campaign” to Las Vegas locals is also in the works.

The Mirage will have midweek happy hours, add free parking Monday through Thursday and offer discounts to spa packages and midweek performances of The Beatles Love and magician Shin Lim’s Limitless.

Lupo said he saw an opportunity to attract more locals when he realized how valuable the access to Spring Mountain Road could be to a free parking program. He noticed that even when the Strip is closed for special events, Spring Mountain is often kept open.

“I was here a long time ago when there were only a million people here, and now there’s almost 3 million in the valley,” he said. “So there’s an opportunity to speak to the locals. When I go to locals properties, I see The Mirage as a property that can easily compete with other local properties.”

Lupo considers himself a local. He graduated from UNLV in 1986 then worked at Boyd Gaming and the now-demolished Stardust, before leaving Nevada in 2003.

Entertainment and the Hard Rock brand

Hard Rock is also looking at ways to incorporate live entertainment.

The operators added stages at the Center Bar and Parlor Cocktail Lounge to start 365 Live, a nightly live music program.

The property’s comedy shows will be rebranded to “Center Stage Comedy,” changing from the MGM-owned Aces of Comedy. A new fall lineup is also expected, Lupo said.

Additionally, Hard Rock will take a shuttered restaurant space and turn it into the Plum Lounge, a players lounge for top-tier Unity cardholders. A second shuttered restaurant will be used to host blackjack and slot tournaments.

“We pushed the envelope a little bit with live bands every night and that’s something new,” Lupo said. “I hope they see new energy.”

McKenna Ross is a corps member with Report for America, a national service program that places journalists into local newsrooms. Contact her at mross@reviewjournal.com. Follow @mckenna_ross_ on Twitter.

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