Tribal owner of Hard Rock now running Mirage on Vegas Strip

LAS VEGAS (AP) — A new operator, Hard Rock International, started running the iconic Mirage resort on the Las Vegas Strip on Monday, following Nevada state gambling regulatory approval for a nearly $1.1 billion sale by former site owner MGM Resorts International, the companies said.

Florida-based Hard Rock International, owned by the Seminole Tribe, said it plans to reshape the property at the center of the glittery Las Vegas Boulevard casino corridor by replacing its volcano attraction with a huge guitar-shaped hotel tower.

Company Chairman Jim Allen said in a statement that the property’s 3,500 employees were absorbed Monday into Hard Rock’s 45,000-member workforce. The company has cafes, hotels, casinos and concert properties around the world.

“We are excited to create an integrated resort on the Strip that will make this legendary entertainment community proud,” Allen said. The statement specified there were no immediate plans to close The Mirage or lay off employees.

Hard Rock and MGM Resorts announced plans for the operational takeover a year ago. The deal became official following Nevada Gaming Commission approval at a special meeting Friday.

“We’re thrilled to welcome Hard Rock to the neighborhood and wish them all the very best,” Bill Hornbuckle, CEO and president of casino giant MGM Resorts International said in a statement.

The more than 3,000-room hotel on 80 acres (32 hectares) becomes the first on the Las Vegas Strip to be run by a Native American tribe.

East of the Strip, the Connecticut-based Mohegan Tribe operates a casino that opened in 2021 at Virgin Hotels Las Vegas after that property — named Hard Rock Hotel & Casino — was purchased in 2018, renovated and rebranded by Virgin.

West of the Strip, an affiliate of the California-based San Manuel Band of Mission Indians owns and operates The Palms.

Seminole-owned Hard Rock International had no previous involvement with the former Hard Rock Hotel & Casino that operated from 1995 to 2020. It bought licensing and naming rights in May 2020. The Mirage redevelopment plan is projected to run through 2023. Costs have not been disclosed.

Daily operations “are set to continue under The Mirage brand for the foreseeable future, and all room reservations and group bookings will be honored with no action required by guests or group organizers,” the company said.

“The process … ultimately will dramatically reimagine every aspect of the resort and change the Las Vegas skyline with the addition of a guitar-shaped hotel tower,” the company promised.

Hard Rock International also entered into a long-term lease agreement with VICI Properties Inc., a real estate investment trust that acquired MGM Resorts properties this year in a $17.2 billion deal with MGM Growth Properties, a publicly traded landowner of holdings in eight states. New York-based VICI owns properties and leases them back to hospitality and entertainment operators.

The sale marks the end of an era for a Polynesian-themed property built by former casino mogul Steve Wynn and credited with helping transform Las Vegas from a gambling hub into an ultra-luxury resort destination with broader appeal.

It opened in November 1989, with a sidewalk-side volcano spewing fire years before gondoliers began plying canals at the Venetian and fountains started dancing at the Bellagio. For years The Mirage hosted Siegfried & Roy taming white tigers. It remains home to a Cirque du Soleil show set to a Beatles soundtrack.

The change-of-hands is one of several involving well-known properties on Las Vegas Boulevard. Rhode Island-based Bally’s Corp. completed its acquisition in September of the Tropicana Las Vegas Hotel and Casino. Bally’s Corp. does not own Bally’s Las Vegas on the Strip.

Caesars Entertainment Inc., which owns Bally’s Las Vegas, is rebranding the 2,800-room property as the Horseshoe Las Vegas. That draws on a name made famous at a downtown gambling hall that hosted the first World Series of Poker.

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