Virgin Hotels Las Vegas opening ‘one more positive sign’ for the market’s recovery

March 25, 2021 11:51 AM
  • Howard Stutz, CDC Gaming Reports
March 25, 2021 11:51 AM
  • Howard Stutz, CDC Gaming Reports

The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic delayed the opening of the Virgin Hotels Las Vegas by some five months.

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However, Richard Bosworth, the CEO of J.C. Hospitality, the managing partner of the hotel-casino’s ownership group, has been waiting for Thursday evening’s unveiling of the off-Strip resort for nearly six years.

The 1,500-room hotel-casino opens following more than $200 million in renovations from its former existence as Hard Rock Las Vegas.


Richard ‘Boz’ Bosworth of JC Hospitality, on the night the Hard Rock was closed to make way for Virgin Hotels Las Vegas

But the customary opening night fanfare will be absent due to the pandemic, which restricts occupancy to 50% capacity. Bosworth said a traditional Las Vegas grand opening celebration is planned for late spring in anticipation of increased gathering size a lifting of entertainment limitations.

For Bosworth, who is referred to as “Boz” by all who know him, the excitement is not muted. “The opening is just one more positive sign of the recovery of the Las Vegas economy.”

It was back in December 2015 when Bosworth explored the idea of an integrated resort whose business disciplines are overseen by multiple partners. He initially discussed the idea with the leadership of Mohegan Gaming, the business arm of Connecticut’s Mohegan Indian Tribe.

At the time, Bosworth had his sights set on the unfinished Fontainebleau project, which was idled by bankruptcy reorganization eight years earlier.

“We brought together what we considered to be the captains of the industry to discuss all the inherent conflicts that arise in a one owner, one operator integrated resort,” Bosworth recalled during an interview Monday. “We discussed all the conflicts and that allowed us to develop a business plan.”

‘A better opportunity’

Fast-forward three years after the initial discussions, and the ownership consortium, which included Juniper Capital Partners, Virgin Group, LiUNA, Fengate Asset Management, Dream, and Orlando Development, struck a $500 million deal for the Hard Rock.


The Opal Tower hovers above the 17,000 square foot event lawn, the former rehab Pool space.

“It was a better opportunity for us,” Bosworth said. “It made more sense.”

His subsequent phone call to Mohegan Gaming “was an easy call and a fun call to make,” he recalled. “‘Are you still interested in Vegas? We’ve got this little plan we started working on a number of years ago.’”

Mohegan Gaming signed on as the casino operator in September 2019, five months before the Hard Rock Las Vegas was closed for what was expected to be an eight-month renovation.

Pandemic disruption

The COVID-19 pandemic shut down gaming in Nevada for 78 days starting March 18, 2020, but construction was deemed an essential industry and work continued following the Hard Rock’s early February closure.

However, more than 100 COVID-19 cases turned up among construction workers, which slowed the building process. Also, the pandemic disrupted the supply chain, oftentimes by as much as four weeks, delaying delivery of building materials and hotel furnishings

But Bosworth said the Virgin operators found some benefit by delays, allowing the managers to “sit on the 50-yard line” watching the best practices of others in the industry.

“Every week felt like a year of knowledge,” he said. “Some of the technology we were able to use and retain for use in this property wasn’t around a year ago. What the pandemic caused was the financial drag on our team members and our community who needed to get back to work.”


The Kitchen at Commons Club, Virgin Hotels Las Vegas 24-hour restaurant.

‘A marketing machine’

Virgin Hotels and Hilton Hotel’s Curio Collection will oversee the property’s 1,500 rooms and suites. Mohegan Gaming – the business arm of Connecticut’s Mohegan Indian Tribe – will manage the 60,000-square-foot gaming floor, becoming the first tribal operator to oversee a casino in the Strip corridor.

Meanwhile, eight restaurant operators will unveil their concepts and AEG will handle the Virgin Las Vegas entertainment.

Together, the combined customer databases for the different partners bring together “a marketing machine that is possibly the largest database worldwide under one roof,” Bosworth said.

He estimated the blended list exceeds 200 million names, which covers Virgin Group’s international reach through its airlines and consumer businesses, and Hilton’s Curio customers who are attracted to a global portfolio of nearly 100 properties, such as the Hotel Del Coronado in San Diego, Martinique New York on Broadway, and Sable at Navy Pier in Chicago.

Mohegan Gaming’s player loyalty program covers its flagship Mohegan Sun Resort in Uncasville, Connecticut, the Mohegan Sun Poconos in Pennsylvania, and the gaming operations it manages for Resorts Atlantic City, Indian casinos in Washington and Louisiana, and the Fallsview Casino Resort on the Canadian side of Niagara Falls.

Bosworth also factored in the restaurant operators, including the Morton family, Todd English, Nobu, and Hakkasan Group, as well as AEG.

“Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas opened with a database of zero and it took the property five years to ramp up,” Bosworth said. “We open day one a strong database and many partners to draw from. It’s a huge machine.”


While the layout for the public spaces was renovated to meet the goals laid out by J.C. Hospitality, the property will have a familiar feel for former Hard Rock visitors. There are a few differences, however.

Most of the restaurants are in similar locations but under new names and ownership.



New slot machines are ready for play at the Mohegan Sun Casino at Virgin Hotels Las Vegas/CDC Gaming Reports

For example, the size of the lounge area at Nobu Restaurant has increased and the Morton family’s MB Steak was renamed One Steakhouse. The space was extensively renovated, and the capacity of the lounge area increased from 22 seats to 100.

The Pink Taco restaurant, a Hard Rock original, is now Casa Calavera and operated by Hakkasan.

Signature amenities associated with Virgin include The Kitchen at Commons Club, The Bar at Commons Club, The Shag Room, and Funny Library Coffee Shop.

The ReHab pool area, which was made famous by boisterous pool parties, live musical performances, and a reality television series, has been covered over and is now a 17,000 square foot event lawn.

J.C. Hospitality instituted a “stick around and come back plan’ for the Hard Rock’s workforce. If employees remained until closing, they were assured of getting their jobs back when the property reopened.

Bosworth said roughly 1,300 of the Hard Rock’s former 1,600-person staff were rehired. Another 300 employees are new hires. He said another 400 to 450 jobs will be filled when the resort pool and two additional restaurants open before summer.

Virgin Hotels Las Vegas is one of three casino-resort openings in Las Vegas that is viewed with lifting the market’s recovery following the pandemic, which reduced gaming and visitation levels to record lows.

Circa Casino Resort in downtown opened last fall while the $4 billion Resorts World Las Vegas on the Strip is scheduled to open later this summer.

Howard Stutz is the executive editor of CDC Gaming Reports. He can be reached at Follow @howardstutz on Twitter.