Hard Rock COO updates Mirage closure plans for Nevada Gaming Commission

May 16, 2024 8:43 PM
Photo: Hard Rock International (courtesy)
  • Buck Wargo, CDC Gaming Reports
May 16, 2024 8:43 PM

The COO of Hard Rock international briefed the Nevada Gaming Commission Thursday on its July closing of the Mirage.

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Jon Lucas, also executive vice president and secretary for Hard Rock, which is owned by the Seminole Tribe of Florida, talked about the July 17 closing, an announcement made Wednesday. Roughly 3,000 employees will be laid off as part of a full shutdown for the property that will be remade with a new hotel tower shaped like a guitar.

Lucas, appearing before the Commission to be licensed in Nevada, said that closing plans weren’t in place when he appeared before the Nevada Gaming Control Board on May 1. “This came to fruition only the other day.”

“Part of it was going through the capital markets, being so challenged, and the escalating costs of construction. We were working through the spend and the scope. We’ve been at this for about a year and a half. We finally sorted through all that and were able to announce.”

Lucas called Wednesday “a difficult day” for employees and management. Previously, Hard Rock had signaled the possibility of keeping the property open during the renovation.

“We looked at the scope of the project and realized that the guest experience wouldn’t be what it needed to be with type of service we like to deliver,” Lucas said. “It would be so disruptive that the best option was to shut the property down.”

The focus over the next 60 to 90 days is on employees and their transition. The company has talked with MGM Resorts International, Caesars Entertainment, Wynn Resorts, Boyd Gaming, Treasure Island and Fontainebleau about participating in job fairs for the employees.

“We also have properties under construction in Bristol, Virginia, Rockford, Illinois, and Ottawa, Canada,” Lucas said. “All of those will double their workforces. We will also be managing a facility outside Bakersfield in partnership with a Native American tribe, so there’s opportunities there. Anybody who wants to relocate to Florida or Atlantic City, we will accommodate them. But if they want to stay local, we’ve arranged for some career job fairs for them.”

Lucas said the plan that Lupo and others put together is sensitive to the needs of employees. He said he was in several of the meetings with staff on Wednesday.

“Everybody’s circumstance is different. We have union and non-union members, people with long and short longevities. We established a team-member support center in the closed buffet, so people have that on a daily basis. We’re really focused on how we gracefully help folks move on and get jobs. We’d also love to have them back. We will have 6,000 team members when we reopen, twice the number before. Clearly, we can provide opportunities for people, but there’ll be a gap.”

Commissioner Brian Krolicki talked with Lucas about how 2027 will be a big year for Hard Rock, with the opening of properties in Athens, Greece, and Las Vegas. He called it the “best of times and worst of times,” but also a great enhancement to the Strip and state.

“It’s exciting to see what you’re doing,” Krolicki said. “I can’t visualize back-to-back guitars that have rooms in them. The sensitivity you expressed today for those folks and work you have done, it’s deja vu. We just had this conversation with Tropicana and others. Your humanity in this as you make billion-dollar decisions is appreciated and being watched.”

Lucas said they will build something that the community and state will be proud of. “The hotel is unique, but the other features will be pretty spectacular as well,” Lucas said.