Joe Hasson: Mohegan Sun Las Vegas opening ‘an important event’ for the tribe By Howard Stutz, Executive Editor, CDC Gaming Reports March 23, 2021 at 7:00 pm The business model provided the reason as to why Joe Hasson went from consultant to candidate for the general manager’s position at the Mohegan Sun Casino inside Virgin Hotels Las Vegas. It was familiar to him. Mohegan Gaming, the business arm of Connecticut’s Mohegan Indian Tribe, unveils its 60,000-square-foot gaming space inside the renovated former Hard Rock Las Vegas on Thursday. The off-Strip property has undergone a year-long, $200 million transformation into Virgin Hotels Las Vegas. The entrance to the Mohegan Sun Casino at Virgin Hotels Las Vegas awaits its first guests/CDC Gaming Reports Hasson, 64, who joined the project last year, oversees the casino and Betfred USA, which was contracted to manage the facility’s sportsbook. He will also have direct lines of communication to the property’s hotel operators, Richard Branson’s Virgin Group and Hilton Hotels, along with eight restaurant operators and AEG, which is overseeing Virgin Las Vegas’ entertainment. The operating structure is similar to one he experienced at Harrah’s New Orleans more than 25 years earlier, in which the casino operator was not permitted by the city to control the property’s restaurants or manage a hotel, favoring local ownership for those amenities. The law was eventually changed. Hasson’s experience turned into a selling point for Mohegan’s leadership. “The key is being truly seamless,” Hasson said in an interview Monday, as final preparations were being made for Thursday’s opening of the resort located just east of Strip. “The guest doesn’t need to know there are multiple entrepreneurs and enterprises here. The guest just needs to be assured that we understand how to collaborate and provide a seamless experience.” New slot machines are ready for play at the Mohegan Sun Casino at Virgin Hotels Las Vegas/CDC Gaming Reports Hasson spent more than 22 years of his nearly 40-year career with Harrah’s gaming properties throughout the U.S. He was retired when, a year ago February, a longtime colleague working for Mohegan Gaming asked him to evaluate a long list of potential candidates for the general manager position. When the economics and the business model were described, Hasson offered another idea. “What I said was, ‘Would you consider me? I’m local; I live in Las Vegas. I’d be happy to take the helm for you, get it up and running, and do a good job of it,’” Hasson recalled. “The rest of the conversation was, ‘Thanks. We appreciate that.’ And then we went our separate ways. A week later, I had a phone call that asked if I would come to talk with them in Connecticut.” The magnitude of the property’s opening is not lost on Hasson. Mohegan Gaming will become the first Indian tribe to operate a casino in the Las Vegas Strip corridor. While Thursday is considered a soft opening for the resort, Hasson said he can’t let the casino’s unveiling go unannounced. Television ads have splashed across Las Vegas airwaves this week about the casino. Even on Monday as the final pre-opening preparations were underway, another television spot was filmed. “As a courtesy and obligation to the tribe, I have to make a splash of sorts,” Hasson said. “This is the first Native American tribe to have reached the Las Vegas Strip corridor. It’s an important event.” Betfred USA’s new sportsbook will open at the Mohegan Sun Las Vegas following the company’s licensing/CDC Gaming Reports Mohegan Sun Casino at Virgin Hotels Las Vegas will open with 643 slot machines and 44 table games. A private gaming salon on the 16th floor of Virgin’s Ruby Tower is still under development. Betfred USA is awaiting licensing by Nevada gaming regulators and won’t be able to accept wagers. “We will illuminate the book, show all the games in the meantime,” Hasson said. “We will have staff on hand to answer questions and introduce the brand.” Mohegan Gaming owns its flagship Mohegan Sun Resort in Uncasville, Connecticut, and the Mohegan Sun Poconos in Pennsylvania. The company manages the gaming operations for Resorts Atlantic City, Indian casinos in Washington and Louisiana on behalf of other tribes, and the Fallsview Casino Resort on the Canadian side of Niagara Falls. The company’s player loyalty program will be honored at the Las Vegas property. “Mohegan’s customer database is vibrant and deep in terms of its reach,” Hasson said. “As good gamblers do, the Mohegan customers will find their way to Las Vegas.” For Hasson, whose last casino operating position was helping Station Casinos and Northern California’s Graton Rancheria Tribe open the Graton Resort some 45 minutes north of San Francisco, the job with Mohegan brings him back to Las Vegas. He gained fame in the mid-2000s in the Discovery Channel’s reality television series “American Casino,” which tracked the daily events and experiences of the managers and employees for Station Casinos’ Green Valley Ranch Resort in Henderson, Nevada, which is located in the Las Vegas Valley about 15 miles outside of Las Vegas. The initial focus, he said, will be on bringing back the former Hard Rock Las Vegas customers. “We want those legacy guests to come back and visit us,” Hasson said. Howard Stutz is the executive editor of CDC Gaming Reports. He can be reached at email@example.com. Follow @howardstutz on Twitter.