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Mohegans' Las Vegas casino OK'd for 2021 opening

Mohegan — Mohegan Gaming & Entertainment had another big day this week, gaining Nevada officials’ final approval to operate a casino in Las Vegas, a first for a tribal gaming company.

The Nevada Gaming Commission voted unanimously Thursday to approve a license for Mohegan Sun Casino at Virgin Hotels Las Vegas, a new version of the former Hard Rock Hotel & Casino, which closed in February to undergo a $200 million makeover. The rebranded property is set for a Jan. 15, 2021 debut.

The commission’s vote took place during an online meeting in which members grilled MGE executives and tribal leaders who participated from tribal headquarters in Uncasville, a Mohegan Sun spokesman said. The Nevada Gaming Control Board had recommended the approval during a similar meeting earlier this month.

“Becoming the first-ever Native American casino operator in the ‘Entertainment Capital of the World’ is an important milestone for Mohegan Gaming & Entertainment,” Mario Kontomerkos, MGE’s president and chief executive officer, said Friday in a statement. “Coming out of a challenging year for the industry, Mohegan Sun Casino at Virgin Hotels Las Vegas is a testament to our strategic growth trajectory, and we are excited to offer our Connecticut guests a new world-class Mohegan gaming experience in the legendary and diverse Las Vegas market.”

Just 10 days earlier, MGE announced the Greek government’s Hellenic Gaming Commission officially had awarded the company a license to develop an integrated resort casino in Athens as part of the proposed $9 billion transformation of the former Hellinikon airport property. MGE’s Inspire Athens project, which won out in a two-way competition with Hard Rock International earlier this year, is believed to carry a price tag in the vicinity of $1 billion.

On Oct. 9, MGE announced a major upgrade of the ilani Resort Casino in Ridgefield, Wash., which it manages in a partnership with the Cowlitz Indian Tribe.

The Mohegan Sun casino in Las Vegas, located just off the famed Strip, will be regulated as a commercial rather than a tribal casino and will encompass 60,000 square feet of gaming space inside an 1,100-room hotel. The project, first announced last September, was scheduled to open this fall before the COVID-19 outbreak intervened, causing delays.

MGE will manage the casino under an agreement with JC Hospitality, the property owner. Initially, the casino will have 650 slot machines and 50 table games. A sports book is planned.

Since opening Mohegan Sun, a tribal casino, in 1996, MGE, formerly known as the Mohegan Tribal Gaming Authority, has expanded throughout the U.S. and more recently, internationally. In 2006, it opened a commercial casino, Mohegan Sun Pocono, in Wilkes-Barre, Pa.

In addition to ilani in Washington state, MGE manages the commercial Resorts Casino Hotel in Atlantic City, N.J.; the commercial Casino Niagara and Fallsview Casino Resort in Niagara Falls, Ontario, Canada; and the Paragon Casino Resort in Marksville, La., which is owned by the Tunica-Biloxi Tribe.

All of MGE's U.S. properties have reopened to some extent following coronavirus-induced shutdowns, while its Niagara Falls casinos remain closed.

MGE also is developing a $1.6 billion integrated resort in Incheon, South Korea, a project that has been scheduled for completion in 2022.

The expansion of the ilani Resort Casino in Washington state, which began last week, includes new dining venues and additional gaming space. In the near future, construction is set to begin on a 14-story, 300-room hotel.

b.hallenbeck@theday.com

 

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