Seminole Tribe’s Hard Rock International Buys Iconic Mirage Resort on Las Vegas Strip

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Seminole Tribe’s Hard Rock International Buys Iconic Mirage Resort on Las Vegas Strip
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Hard Rock International has agreed to buy the Las Vegas Strip’s first luxury megaresort, the Mirage hotel-casino, for nearly $1.1 billion. The company plans to build a guitar-shaped hotel at the 77-acre site.

The Mirage, opened by casino developer Steve Wynn on the west side of the resort corridor in November 1989, will be rebranded as a Hard Rock property. The Seminole Tribe of Florida owns Hard Rock International.

MGM Resorts International earlier announced it would sell the property to focus on sports betting and a new casino in Japan, according to the Wall Street Journal. MGM bought the Mirage for $4.4 billion in May 2000 from Wynn’s Mirage Resorts.

Pending regulatory approval, Hard Rock International’s purchase of the Mirage in a $1.075 billion cash deal is expected to close in the second half of 2022.

Tribe Seeks Casino in U.S. ‘Gaming Capital’

Jim Allen, chairman of Hard Rock International, said he is “honored” to welcome the Mirage to the Hard Rock family.

The global brand includes six hotel-casinos in Florida, where the tribe is engaged in a legal dispute that led to the recent shutdown, at least temporarily, of its Hard Rock Sportsbook app. That app had been the only mobile sports betting platform in operation in Florida.

Last fall, Allen said the company sought an “opportunity” to build in Southern Nevada.

“We recognize that Las Vegas is the capital of gaming in the United States,” he said. “If that opportunity comes up, then yes, we would be interested.”

Mirage Altered Las Vegas Landscape

At the Mirage’s opening 32 years ago, it was the first new resort on the Strip in 15 years.

The first guests to check into the 3,049-room hotel at noon on opening day were two white tigers belonging to performers Siegfried and Roy, according to the Washington Post. The illusionists had signed a $58 million contract to perform at the Mirage, beginning the day after Christmas that year.

Onlookers at the opening, including Nevada Gov. Bob Miller, were greeted by lush landscaping and tropical foliage. A 54-foot-volcano shooting flames and water into the air in front of the property became a tourist attraction and an iconic Las Vegas landmark. The Washington Post reported that the water spewing from the volcano had a pina colada scent to mask its gaseous odors.

The Mirage sparked a megaresort building boom on the Strip, leading to the implosion of several longtime hotel-casinos, including the Desert Inn, Sands and Dunes, that had been connected to Mafia members and other gangsters.

The newest high-rise hotel-casino on the Strip, the $4.3 billion Resorts World Las Vegas, was built at the former site of the Stardust, a resort controlled by the Chicago Outfit, and fictionalized in the 1995 Las Vegas Mafia movie “Casino.” The name of the Stardust was changed in the movie for legal reasons.

The Mirage is credited with changing how Nevada casinos and resorts were built in the city, in terms of the scale and the luxuries offered to customers, opening the door for later properties such as Resorts World.

David Schwartz, a gaming historian and author, told the Las Vegas Review-Journal that the Mirage was the “model for pretty much everything that’s been built in Las Vegas since 1989.”

“It really did move the city and its resorts ahead,” said Schwartz, who serves as UNLV ombudsman.

For decades since the Mirage’s grand opening, the trend in Las Vegas casino development has to be welcome visitors to an experience that transcends just gambling. This includes a family-friendly resort concept in the 1990s to today’s extravagant newer properties such as Circa Resort, an adults-only hotel-casino that opened last year on Fremont Street downtown. It was the first hotel-casino built from the ground up in downtown’s Glitter Gulch in 40 years.

Since 1999, a decade after the Mirage opened, Las Vegas resorts have made more money from conventions, and from hotel amenities such as food and entertainment, than from gambling, according to the Wall Street Journal.

A previous Hard Rock hotel-casino, which included a large guitar-shaped sign, was located just east of the Strip at the site of the current Virgin Hotels Las Vegas.

MGM Remains Active on Las Vegas Strip

MGM Resorts operates nine hotel-casinos on the Strip, mainly on the west side of the highway leading to Los Angeles.

Regarding the sale of the Mirage, MGM President and CEO Bill Hornbuckle said in a statement that he was part of the team that opened the resort in 1989 and knows “firsthand how special it is, and what a great opportunity it presents to the Hard Rock team.”

“I want to thank all of our Mirage employees who have consistently delivered world-class gaming and entertainment experiences to our guests for more than three decades,” he said.

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