Mohegan Gaming Reaches Landmark Deal to Operate Virgin Las Vegas, a First for a Tribal Operator

When the Virgin-rebranded Hard Rock in Las Vegas reopens in late 2020, Mohegan Gaming & Entertainment will operate it. This marks the first time a Las Vegas casino will be operated by a Tribal gaming arm. MGE reached the landmark deal with Virgin Hotels Resort through an agreement with Hard Rock owner JC Hospitality LLC, which is partnering with Virgin and its infamous founder Richard Branson — the first casino investment for the billionaire entrepreneur.

“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,” Mario Kontomerkos, CEO of Mohegan Gaming & Entertainment (MGE), told the Las Vegas Review-Journal. “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.”

The Virgin Brand has defined itself as hip and alluring worldwide — and MGE and partners believe the rebranded Virgin Hotels Resort can actually lure more tourists off the Strip. The new Virgin Las Vegas, located on the former Hard Rock grounds, is roughly a mile east of the strip.

“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,” says Kontomerkos, adding that aligning the two world-class brands, Mohegan and Virgin, will elevate the profile of the resort to a “legendary global entertainment capital.”

Following a February closure and eight-month renovation, the former Hard Rock will reopen in late 2020 as Virgin Las Vegas — affiliated with upscale brand Curio Collection by Hilton. MGE still needs to be licensed by Nevada gaming regulators.

“Mohegan Gaming & Entertainment, as an extension of the Mohegan Tribe, pride themselves on traditional principles, in sync with modern values,” says 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.”

For Branson, entering the Las Vegas is a natural move. He’s launched several of the first direct flights to Las Vegas on Virgin Atlantic Airways — nonstop from London and from San Francisco. He’s also investing in Virgin Trains, a high-speed rail line to connect Southern California to Las Vegas, slated to begin operating next year.

Mohegan’s Growing Empire

The Mohegan Tribe’s flagship property is Mohegan Sun in Uncasville, Connecticut. MGE also owns or operates properties in Atlantic City; Pennsylvania; Louisiana; Niagara Falls, Ontario. Mohegan and the Mashantucket Pequot Tribe, owners of Foxwoods, partnered on a satellite in East Windsor, Connecticut. MGE is also developing an Integrated Resort (IR) in Incheon, South Korea; Kontomerkos is currently on the ground in South Korea visiting the IR underway there, a PR rep for Mohegan told Native Business yesterday. The company is additionally competing for a license to build an IR at the former Hellenikon International Airport in Greece as well as in Japan.

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