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Setting up future Vegas casino?

Hard Rock International has purchased the rights to the Hard Rock brand in Las Vegas from Juniper Capital. Juniper had acquired the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Las Vegas in 2018 as part of a venture with Virgin Hotels.

One of the key sentences in the announcement is the following: “Effective immediately, HRI and its affiliates will no longer be restricted from developing, owning, licensing, managing or operating any Hard Rock-branded casino and integrated resort within Clark County, Nevada.”

It is that statement that has the industry believing that that Hard Rock has something very specific in mind for Las Vegas.

Jim Allen, chairman of Hard Rock International, also added: “We look forward to the opportunity of enhancing our presence in Las Vegas, which will always be one of the most iconic entertainment markets in the world.”

Hard Rock Las Vegas sold two years ago

As mentioned, the Hard Rock Las Vegas changed ownership in the spring of 2018. Richard Branson and Virgin Hotels teamed up with Bosworth Hospitality Partners, Juniper Capital Partners, and Fengate Capital Management to buy the property from Brookfield Asset Management for an undisclosed price.

JC Hospitality was created as part of the transaction and is the actual owner of the property while Virgin took over as the property manager. Richard “Boz” Bosworth was installed as the CEO of Hard Rock Las Vegas.

From the moment the deal was celebrated with an enormous party fitting of the Las Vegas scene, it was known that the Hard Rock would eventually become a Virgin property. One of the big questions was if the iconic Hard Rock guitar would survive. Branson admitted that it may not and sure enough, it did not.

Though one might have expected someone like Branson to go big on the Las Vegas Strip, he said that the acquisition of an off-Strip property was the plan all along. Off-Strip means no on-Strip price premium. The savings could be used for renovations. Branson also said he prefers a small, boutique hotel.

Rebranding to Virgin Hotels

The original plan for the Hard Rock was to complete renovations in phases this year, staying open during construction for four months and then closing for four months. Ownership changed its mind, though, deciding that a partial closure just wasn’t feasible or fair to their guests. Thus, the project changed to a complete shutdown for the bulk of 2020. With the current COVID-19 pandemic devastating the gaming and hospitality industry, the timing worked out in JC Hospitality’s favor.

The Hard Rock Las Vegas officially closed after the Super Bowl in early February 2020 after 25 years.

Knowing that Hard Rock employees would be out of work (and not knowing the pandemic was coming), the company initiated the “Stick Around and Come Back” program during the summer of 2019. It offered employees who stayed with the Hard Rock until the closing date as much as ten weeks bonus pay. Staff who wish to return once the property reopens will get their jobs back.

When the hotel/casino reopens later this year, it will be called Virgin Hotels Las Vegas.

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