Hard Rock Looking to Buy New Las Vegas Property After Deal with Virgin

For almost every operator, the ultimate goal is to have a steady presence across the entire North American continent. No matter how many lucrative venues a company may own, Las Vegas is still the epicenter of gaming and everyone wants a piece of the pie. Why are we mentioning this? Well, that was one of the first things that everyone thought about when it was announced that Hard Rocket International was relinquishing their only Vegas property to Richard Branson.

With transactions such as the sale of the legendary Bellagio shaking Sin City to the core these last few weeks, Hard Rock Int. haven’t been sitting idly, with Seminole Gaming CEO Jim Allen recently revealing that the company is “very much pondering the acquisition of a new location on The Strip”. Due to a recent tragedy at an HNI construction site in New Orleans, there’s a lot to think about.

The Deal

For the first time in recent history, Las Vegas is without a Hard Rock casino. The Virgin conglomerate consists of more than 400 separate entities, but this will be Richard Branson’s first foray into Sin City’s gaming scene. According to several experts, Virgin acted smartly when they decided to renovate the venue, instead of tearing it down. While this move was lauded widely, there were initial plans to “renovate on the go”, but J.C. Hospitality, the future operator of the casino, concluded that this would prove to be detrimental to the overall customer experience.

Thus, the venue will be closed immediately after Super Bowl LIV (2 February 2020), with a possible unveiling of Virgin Las Vegas taking place eight months later, in October. Insiders say that there won’t be any significant structural changes, but that the innovations will definitely be extensive and able to contribute to an overall ambitious rebranding effort.

Just a Hint or a Legitimate Plan?

During a guest appearance on the Bloomberg Weekly podcast with Carol Massar and Jason Kelly, chairman of HNI, Jim Allen, had a couple of things to share with the public. First and foremost, he expressed his remorse and regret after an incident on one of the company’s construction sites in New Orleans on October 12. Apparently, part of the structure crashed and three people lost their lives in the process. He promised that HNI will partner with both local and federal authorities to investigate the incident fully.

Seminole Gaming also has its sights set on several overseas locations. They’ve entered a race for an exclusive piece of land at the old Hellenikon Airport in Athens, Greece. Since then, they’ve managed to edge out Mohegan Gaming and secure the license. According to Reuters, they will finance the entirety of the $1.1 billion construction process.

As Japan recently legalized casino gambling, they’re also bidding for a spot in Osaka. However, it seems that they’re not the favorites, which led some to believe that Allen intends to use a potential return to Las Vegas as insurance. While he carefully structured his statements during the podcast episode, he seemed to reveal quite a lot for someone who said the company doesn’t have a set plan for a return to Vegas. “Just aspirations”, as he worded it.

Where Does Hard Rock Fit?

This seems like a preposterous question to ask when talking about HNI, but it’s a conundrum very much rooted in the current economy of the city. Jim Allen did mention some potential spots, but also said that “Cosmopolitan Las Vegas is an option not acceptable to the company.” In the process of elaborating this possible return, he also said that “Planet Hollywood is pretty enticing” and that “the company would be ecstatic if Belly turned out to be a viable option.” What do the experts say about all of this?

The general consensus is murky at this time, with some people in the industry claiming this statement is nothing more than a trick to let property owners know that Hard Rock is on the lookout. Others say that any return to Sin City wouldn’t be a profitable move, because of price issues and the increasing competition for every acre of land. Ultimately, Allen said they were “waiting for the right location.”

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