When Richard Branson founded Virgin Hotels several years ago, he always intended to place a hotel in Las Vegas. That happened last year when, in cooperation with Bosworth Hospitality and investment firm Juniper Capital Partners, they purchased the former Hard Rock Hotel. The casino at Virgin Las Vegas will be run by Mohegan Gaming & Hospitality at Mohegan Sun Las Vegas, with Joe Hasson as the general manager. Hasson spoke with GGB Publisher Roger Gros in a Zoom podcast from the casino in March.
GGB: It’s an exciting time to open a new property, but you’ve been through that a few times. What’s different opening this casino?
Hasson: We’re excited and proud to bring the Mohegan brand of gaming to the Las Vegas Strip corridor. I feel the appropriate pressure of that—which is a good thing to feel. This is different because this is truly an integrated resort. They’ve had this opportunity in place for a long time, and they’ve brought together a bunch of great brands. In addition to Virgin, they brought in the power of the Hilton Curio database, they have AEG Presents running what will be a great entertainment and events center, and then a fabulous array of restaurant entrepreneurs who bring all the pop, pizzazz and sparkle that you can imagine all under one roof.
We were very familiar with the Hard Rock casino. What will be different at the Mohegan Sun casino?
You’ll find a complete re-imagination of the resort. For the casino, the Mohegan brand will bring all the popular slot games. Anything that is new, we’re going to have it. But we will also populate the floor with the old favorites, whether it be reel games or video poker-style games. We want this to feel familiar as well as new at the same time.
You won’t find the infamous center bar. We’ve replaced that with the center of the casino, a combination of slots and table games. The bar has been moved to the entryway of the resort, which is essentially the lobby bar now, which also includes the ultra-lounge. I think people will enjoy it. People will find old and new at the Mohegan Sun casino.
How are you going to interact with the other partners?
We want this to be a seamless experience for the guests, so the operators need to have the coordination behind the scenes among all the partners. My job is to stay in close contact with those other businesses that are part of the integrated resort and to make sure we’re coordinated in such a way that the guests are comfortable and fulfilled.
You’ve got multiple databases that you’re going to use—Mohegan, Virgin Hotels, the database of the former Hard Rock and the Hilton Curio. How will those folks be addressed?
When I think about the power of the Mohegan database, we operate in Connecticut, Pennsylvania, Washington state, Louisiana and now we’re operating in Canada, across from Niagara Falls. We know our guests in all those regions come to Las Vegas, and now we’ve got something great to offer them.
For the former guests of Hard Rock, we’re going to reach out to them and ask them to try us again. Come visit us and let us introduce ourselves to you. We’ll place you instantly in the right tier of rewards that you were accustomed to without having to earn your way to that level. It’s a matter of respect.
Lots of the former employees of the Hard Rock have returned. How is that working out?
We honored whatever promises were made to the casino employees, so as general manager of the Mohegan Sun casino, I’m pleased and proud to welcome those employees back. It’s a matter of mutual respect and cooperation and the manner in which Mohegan Sun does business, and it’s the right thing to do. Very few general managers who open up new or reinvented properties have a veteran workforce on day one. I have the luxury and that honor.