Mohegan Gaming reopens flagship resort in Conn., says Las Vegas project on track Howard Stutz, CDC Gaming Reports · June 29, 2020 at 7:00 am The response to COVID-19 triggered Mohegan Gaming and Entertainment to spend more than $1 million on health, safety, cleaning, and social distancing efforts at the company’s flagship resort in Connecticut prior to reopening the property earlier this month. The pandemic also changed the customer profile at Mohegan Sun, a 1,500-room resort in the Connecticut village of Uncasville, located an hour south of Providence, Rhode Island, and two hours south of Boston. “Our typical drive-in radius had been roughly two hours,” Mohegan Gaming CEO Mario Kontomerkos said in an interview Friday. “We’ve seen that time increase to up to three hours. There is a mentality of wanting to get away, and we wanted our guests to know this property is the safest place they can go.” With a gaming floor of 364,000 square feet, social distancing wasn’t much of a problem at Mohegan Sun, which now has customer capacity restrictions, fewer available slot machines, and reduced seating at table game. Everyone entering the resort goes through thermal screening, and the use of face masks is mandatory for everyone at the resort. Restaurant selections have been scaled back, and hotel rooms now have unique sanitation features. Mohegan Sun has also installed plexiglass dividers at every transaction station. “I have to say, the reaction has been pretty positive,” Kontomerkos said. Visitation quickly returned to Mohegan Sun, which also benefited from the fact that casinos in Massachusetts have remained closed during June. “Thirty days, plus or minus, after the pandemic hit, we began exploring reopening plans,” Kontomerkos said. “That was our directive, and we think it has helped us return our guests and build relationships with new folks.” The health and safety protocols are also in use at the Mohegan Indian Tribe’s Mohegan Sun Poconos in Pennsylvania, which reopened last week, and the gaming operations inside Resorts Atlantic City, which reopens Thursday. The pandemic also closed the company’s managed properties in Washington and Louisiana, but it hasn’t had an impact on the Mohegan tribe’s newest effort. Last fall, Mohegan Gaming announced a deal to operate the casino at the planned Virgin Hotels Las Vegas, becoming the first tribal gaming company to manage a resort in the nation’s largest commercial gambling market. The tribe is partnering with Miami-based Virgin Hotels on the rebranding of the off-Strip Hard Rock Las Vegas, which closed in February for the renovation. Kontomerkos said renovation work has continued as planned on the property. Nevada Governor Steve Sisolak deemed construction an essential business when he shut down casinos and other businesses in mid-March. “Work is moving along on schedule,” Kontomerkos said. “We feel good about opening by the end of the year.” He said Mohegan was “in the process” of filing a gaming license application for the property with Nevada gaming regulators. Mohegan Entertainment entered into a multi-year agreement with JC Hospitality, owners of the property, last September to oversee the remodeling of the facility’s 60,000-square-foot casino space. Mohegan has input on other entertainment aspects that will be part of the casino. Virgin Hotels will operate the property’s 1,500 guest rooms, which will be part of the Hilton Hotel’s Curio Collection. Before the pandemic, Mohegan Sun was part of the debate over legalizing sports betting in Connecticut. The hotel-casino and the rival Foxwoods resort were both listed as among five potential locations in the state to operate both retail and mobile sports wagering. A proposed tribal casino in East Windsor, the state’s off-track wagering parlors, and the state lottery were also included in the most recent bill. “There is broad consensus that the activity should be in Connecticut, but the process is continuing,” he said. Howard Stutz is the executive editor of CDC Gaming Reports. He can be reached at email@example.com. Follow @howardstutz on Twitter.