Mohegan Gaming on Its Way to Becoming the First Tribal Casino Operator in Las Vegas

  • Mohegan Sun Casino at Virgin Hotels Las Vegas got Nevada Gaming Control Board's full approval
  • January 15 opening is pending Nevada Gaming Commission's go-ahead on October 22 
  • MGE continued pumping funds into Las Vegas investment despite pandemic outbreak
  • Casino to feature 650 slots, 50 table games, sportsbook, high-stakes private gaming
  • Operator eyeing nonstop flights between Vegas and Seoul as key channel for Asian casino traffic
ribbon-cutting ceremony
Mohegan Gaming and Entertainment got Nevada regulatory board approval to proceed with its Mohegan Sun casino operation at Virgin Hotels Las Vegas. [Image:]

Update: The Nevada Gaming Commission unanimously approved the licensing of Mohegan Gaming & Entertainment as the casino operator of Virgin Hotels Las Vegas. The voting took place on October 22.

A step closer to making history

Mohegan Gaming and Entertainment (MGE) on Wednesday received unanimous licensing approvals from the Nevada Gaming Control Board (NGCB). The move represents the penultimate step in MGE’s quest to make history as “the first Native American Tribe to operate in the Las Vegas Strip corridor” according to its owner, the Mohegan Tribe of Connecticut.

open on January 15, 2021

Pending final Nevada Gaming Commission (NGC) approval on October 22, Mohegan Sun Casino at Virgin Hotels Las Vegas – a location technically not on the Strip, but just east of Las Vegas Boulevard – will open on January 15, 2021.

From their tribal seat in Uncasville, Connecticut, MGE board members fielded questions from NGCB chairwoman Sandra Douglass Morgan and fellow board members Terry Johnson and Phil Katsaros in an online meeting.

Morgan congratulated MGE after her board approved the Nevada licenses. MGE attorney Marc Rubenstein of Reid Rubenstein Bogatz said his employers “really appreciate everything that has transpired and look forward to appearing at the Commission later this month.”

Vegas project powering forward

While MGE will manage Las Vegas’s first commercial tribal casino, the hotel will be operated by JC Hospitality Partners under GM Richard ‘Boz’ Bosworth. Property owners Virgin Hotels, JC Hospitality, and MGE will have equal say in the resort’s operation. Virgin confirmed the mid-January opening date for the Vegas hotel-casino operation last month.

In Wednesday’s online meeting, the general manager of Mohegan’s Vegas operation, Joe Hasson, said construction crews were working “seven days a week” to complete the hotel-casino ahead of its scheduled opening.

According to Hasson, MGE did not stint on pumping funds into its Las Vegas investment despite the pandemic. “I had a checkbook that was planned and thoughtfully presented long before COVID became a reality,” he said.

When the pandemic hit, MGE furloughed 98% of its workforce – approximately 11,000 employees. The Connecticut tribe will, however, continue to pay all its employees’ health benefits, the Las Vegas Review-Journal reports. MGE also expects to recall 300 former Hard Rock Hotel staff to the Mohegan Sun Casino at Virgin Hotels Las Vegas. The soon-to-open Virgin property was formerly the Hard Rock Las Vegas, where said employees worked for more than 13 years.

Adopting a sunny outlook

Hasson said the Mohegan Sun Casino will have 650 slot machines, around 50 table games, and a sportsbook operated by Betfred Sports USA. It is also licensed to run a high-stakes private gaming salon, which will operate in line with the rules and limits applicable at MGE’s flagship Mohegan Sun Casino property in Uncasville.

The GM expressed optimism about the future, saying the hospitality and gaming industry is “resilient […] and very capable of reinventing itself continuously.”

The new casino will also be one of the closest in Vegas to McCarran International Airport. MGE leaders believe that the nonstop flights between Las Vegas and Seoul on Korean Air could open a key channel for new Asian casino traffic. Ultimately, MGE seems intently focused on bringing its A-game to Sin City.

I feel as if I’m in a very familiar place. It sounds like hospitality”

“When I hear the senior-most members of the business talk about the spirit of Aquai – welcoming, cooperation, mutual respect, building relationships – I feel as if I’m in a very familiar place. It sounds like hospitality to me,” Hasson said, citing the tribe’s Native American philosophy. He concluded that it was a privilege to lead the MGE brand to Las Vegas.

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