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Inside Gaming: Hard Rock Las Vegas Closing Temporarily in February

Hard Rock Hotel and Casino Las Vegas

Sharelines

  • Hard Rock Las Vegas to close in February 2020 to complete renovation, rebranding as Virgin Hotels LV.

  • Hong Kong protests yet to affect Macau gaming; providers move to comply w/Apple gaming app guideline.

Hard Rock Las Vegas to Close February 2020 for Renovations, Rebranding

You may recall that back in early 2018 the Hard Rock Hotel and Casino Las Vegas was sold to Virgin Hotels along with a few other investment partners. At the time, Virgin founder Richard Branson announced a plan to renovate the property over the next couple of years before rebranding it as Virgin Hotels Las Vegas.

The property has remained open since the sale. It had been earlier announced it would mostly remain open while renovations were completed, only closing for a few months just prior to the reopening. Now, however, it sounds as though the Hard Rock will be closed a bit longer, shutting its doors in February 2020 not reopening again until the renovations and rebranding are complete.

As KTNV in Las Vegas reports, after closing next February “the hotel and casino is expected to reopen no later than January 2021,” although “it could be done by October 2020.”

According to investor Richard “Boz” Bosworth, President and CEO of JC Hospitality and the CEO of the new property, the original plan for a “phased closing of four months” was determined to be “not efficient from a construction process nor could we provide a hospitality service experience our guests deserve.”

A statement from the Hard Rock notes that current employees at the Hard Rock Hotel and Casino are being offered incentives to return once the property reopens via a “Stick Around and Come Back” program that includes a lump sum retention bonus, up to 10 weeks of pay during the interim, and other programs including “wellness workshops, lifelong learning classes, and social mixers.”

Those among the 1,850 employees who choose to return to work for Virgin Hotels Las Vegas will not have to interview again for previously held jobs.

Report: Hong Kong Protests Not Affecting Macau as Yet

Protests in Hong Kong over the last three months have grown in intensity over recent weeks, including causing the Hong Kong International Airport to close temporarily for two consecutive days in mid-August. But while the protests have begun to affect Hong Kong’s economy in various ways, they have yet to have any impact on gross gaming revenue in nearby Macau, reports GGRAsia.

A look at figures from the week of August 12-18 revealed Macau’s gross gaming revenue to have been “up approximately 7 percent sequentially from our estimate for the prior week” accordingto Instinet LLC of the brokerage firm Nomura.

Other firms such as JP Morgan have predicted the protests will have a “minor negative impact” on Macau’s gross gaming revenue. The brokerage firm Sanford C. Bernstein Ltd. has said it expects Macau’s GGR “to decline by between 2 and 4 percent in year-on-year terms” in August, although those forecasts were made relatively independent of the protests.

A certain percentage of gamblers visiting Macau travel through the Hong Kong airport, although the opening of the Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macau Bridge in October of last year has provided another method of transportation to the gambling mecca.

The protests began in the spring in response to proposed amendments to Hong Kong’s extradition law, changes many in Hong Kong perceived would fundamentally alter the Special Administrative Region’s relative independence from mainland China.

In June the Hong Kong legislature suspended the proposed bill that would have imposed the extradition amendments, although has not withdrawn it. However the protests continued and expanded, with demands now going beyond the withdrawal of the bill to include the release of arrested protestors and dropping of charges against them, a retraction of the protests being described as “riots,” a governmental inquiry into Hong Kong police tactics, and universal suffrage in elections going forward.

Casinos Scramble to Comply with Apple’s New App Guideline

In early June, an update was made to Apple’s App Store Review Guidelines that understandably captured the industry’s attention, particularly wherever online and mobile options have become an important component for casinos and other vendors that offer gambling and sports betting.

Specifically, the updated guideline stated “HTML5 games distributed in apps may not provide access to real money gaming, lotteries, or charitable donations, and may not support digital commerce.” The stated deadline for existing apps to comply is September 3.

The three months’ notice sent current online gaming providers scrambling, while also impacting brand new providers. That’s because many developers already had (or were developing) apps written in HTML5 (and not in code native to Apple’s iOS). Generally speaking, sports betting apps are easier for companies to adapt while the apps offering casino games are more difficult to manage, mainly because in the latter case those apps are often more connected to the online casino websites (i.e., not created in the native code).

Last week Poker Industry Pro gave an update on how providers in the burgeoning Pennsylvania market are adapting to Apple’s new guideline.

SugarHouse Casino, which began offering online sports betting in late May and had its online casino go live last month, has now provided a kind of workaround enabling its customers to place wagers with their iOS devices. FanDuel and Parx Casino have likewise introduced compliant apps for sports betting, and Hollywood Casino recently did the same by offering online slots and video poker via an iOS app.

Meanwhile Playtech, the world’s largest online gaming supplier, has also introduced a “native-first product line” that will help other operators fall in line. Playtech’s new “Software Development Kit” will allow its clients to create their own iOS-native apps without needing outside developers.

It’s an important issue, as all casinos offering online gambling options want to be able to give customers the ability to place wagers with their Apple devices, especially in the U.S. market where the iPhone closely rivals Android in popularity among smartphone users. Whereas globally Android enjoys around a 75 percent market share with iPhone a distant second with around 22 percent, in the U.S. it is closer to 55-45 in favor of Android.

Photo: “Hard Rock Casino – Las Vegas” (adapted), Mark Richardson, CC BY 2.0.

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