Despite its placement squarely in the Southwest, and the fact that there are 19 federally-recognized Native American tribes eligible to offer gambling, Nevada is home to just three tribal-owned casinos.
That list recently grew, however, when the renovated and rebranded Mohegan Sun Casino at Virgin Hotels replaced the old Hard Rock Hotel and Casino near the Strip.
In a unique partnership, Virgin has brought on the Mohegan Tribe of Connecticut—who own and operate a sprawling Mohegan Sun property back home—to operate Sin City’s first tribal-run casino.
New additions to the Las Vegas landscape are always welcome, so read on to learn everything you need to know about this historic development.
What Happened to the Old Hard Rock Casino?
Located about a mile east of Las Vegas Boulevard on Paradise Road between Tropicana Avenue and Flamingo Road, the Hard Rock Hotel and Casino first opened back in 1995. Bearing the signature Hard Rock Café branding that was popular in the ‘90s, the venue attracted celebrity gamblers and a younger demographic.
Virgin closed everything down for a major renovation project in February of 2020, and just over a year later, Mohegan Sun Casino at Virgin Hotels opened for business.
The Team Members and Staff at Hard Rock
While I can’t speak to whether any members of the old Hard Rock staff were let go, Mohegan Gaming & Entertainment (MGE) can confirm that 300 employees have returned.
In a press release issued after a successful grand opening ceremony, MGE made it clear that staff continuity was a big priority during the transitional phase:
“Mohegan Sun Casino Las Vegas promises to deliver memorable guest experiences, best in-class operations and unmatched personalized service.
Welcoming guests to the casino were over 300 team members returning to the reconceptualized property, seasoned veterans of the gaming and hospitality industry.”
That’s just smart business on MGE’s part right there. Rather than transfer members if its Connecticut-based operation and make them strangers to Silver State locals, the company has wisely chosen to reward Hard Rock’s regulars and staff alike.
Richard “Boz” Bosworth, who serves as president and CEO of Virgin affiliate JC Hospitality, told KTNV-Las Vegas that building a culture catering to locals is a big goal:
“It’s more about our employees and our team members and Las Vegas. People are dying to come back to Vegas, not only are you going to see that only, is it as good as it was, it’s better than it was.”
According to Bosworth, Mohegan Sun’s opening has already put 1,600 locals back to work after the pandemic temporarily shut down the nation’s casino industry.
The Mohegans and Their Relation to the Gambling Industry
So, who are the Mohegans? What’s their experience in the casino industry?
The Mohegan Tribe of Native Americans of Connecticut has lived along the Thames River for several centuries. They were the original residents of what is now known as the town of Uncasville.
Under the Treaty of Hartford signed in 1638, the Mohegan people ostensibly secured their independence from the British crown. Colonial expansion quickly saw that treaty broken and the Mohegan were scattered across the New England region.
By the 1980s, the tribe had reorganized to sue Connecticut in hopes of regaining its occupied land. It took until 1994 for the Mohegan to become a federally-recognized tribe, and they were granted reservation land along the Thames that year.
Under the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act of 1988, federally-recognized tribes are permitted to forge casino gambling compacts with state governments. The tribe did just that, and in 1996, the Mohegan Sun casino resort opened its doors.
Is the Casino Cut Out for the Big Time Here in Las Vegas?
I take it you’ve never been to the Mohegan Sun, so let me set you straight… that’s no “small tribal casino.” The place sports a glittering 34-story hotel tower which overlooks a 364,000-square foot casino complex.
To put that epic size into perspective, consider that The Venetian/Palazzo (129,083 square feet), Caesars Palace (124,181 square feet), and Bellagio (116,000 square feet) combined just barely beat Mohegan Sun in terms of space.
The main Mohegan Sun regularly reports revenue of over $1 billion. And thanks to its compact with the state, Connecticut’s coffers have received $2.5 billion in slot revenue alone over the years.
The Mohegan Tribe has also expanded before by spending $280 million to purchase Pocono Downs Racetrack in 2005. The venue was converted into a “racino” and became Pennsylvania’s first slot machine casino in 2006.
Under its Mohegan Gaming and Entertainment (MGE) extension, the Tribe also manages Resorts Casino Hotel in Atlantic City, New Jersey.
Suffice it to say, Mohegan Sun’s entrance into the Las Vegas casino scene won’t be the tribe’s first rodeo.
What to Expect When Visiting the New Mohegan Sun Casino
The casino itself ranks on the smaller side locally with 60,000 square feet of gaming floor space.
That space is home to 54 table game installations, including all the staples like blackjack, baccarat, craps, roulette, and Three-Card Poker. The table game pit is also supplemented with more modern additions such as Craps-less Craps, Midi Baccarat, Face Up Pai Gow Poker, and Spanish 21.
Craps-less Craps is probably the most obscure on the list, so here’s a brief rundown on how the game works.
Unlike traditional craps, where pass line players lose if they roll a 2, 3, or 12 on the come-out roll, and win with an 11, those numbers just become the point. Players can also make place bets on the 2, 3, 11, and 12, making for a unique twist on the classic dice game.
As for the machines, expect to find 650 slot and video poker game titles on hand. Slot spinners will see classics like Buffalo Diamond, Dancing Drums Explosion, Dollar Storm, Fortune Coin Boost, and Willy Wonka Everlasting Gobstopper featured prominently on the Mohegan Sun Vegas website.
Real money video poker fans both the iconic Game King standup machines on the floor and Peak Bar Top games at the watering hole.
Can I Bet on Sports at Mohegan Sun Casino?
You sure will, thanks to a sportsbook managed by European industry mainstay Betfred.
Unfortunately, work continues on the sportsbook facility itself, so the casino’s website lists the Betfred Sportsbook simply as “Coming Soon.”
Enjoy a Vintage Stay at Virgin Hotel
From the early reviews, guests can expect a return to vintage Las Vegas treatment while staying at Virgin Hotels.
In fact, you can park for free, use the wireless internet for free, and pay “street prices” at the in-room minibar.
Any Word on the Rewards Program and Other Perks?
Mohegan Sun Casino Las Vegas utilizes Momentum as its exclusive rewards club to make regulars feel at home.
Play at the tables or machines after presenting your Momentum card to turn $1 in bets into $1 in resort credits, or $2 in free slot play.
Continued play gains access to various Momentum tiers, with each offering a wider range of property wide casino comps and perks.
Las Vegas is a hotbed for innovation in the gambling industry, so it’s not exactly a surprise to see such a unique management deal minted between the Mohegan and Virgin.
Adding a tribal-operated venue to the area near the Strip has also been a long time coming.
Mohegan Sun Casino in Las Vegas already has a four-star rating on Google Reviews, so the initial wave of guests seem to be having a great time so far.
Now that you know everything there is to know about Mohegan Sun Casino at Virgin Hotels, head out to Sin City and check it out for yourself.