Thursday, April 16, 2020 / by Ken Couture
Virgin Hotels Las Vegas, the former Hard Rock Hotel and Casino, remains on schedule to open this fall despite challenges stemming from the coronavirus.
Virgin billionaire Richard Branson, along with Richard Bosworth’s Bosworth Hospitality Partners and investment and real estate development firms Juniper Capital Partners and Fengate Asset Management, acquired the off-Strip casino resort in March 2018 for an undisclosed sum. The transition from a rock ‘n’ roll-themed destination to the Virgin brand is expected to cost $200 million.
“We consider ourselves very fortunate that, to date, and I do want to emphasize, to date, we have had no disruption to our construction project or our schedule,” Bosworth recently told the Las Vegas Review-Journal.
“I want to emphasize that while we certainly feel blessed that we, to date, have not had a disruption to our scheduling, it’s very difficult to feel happy or excited about that when it’s such a devastation to an industry,” he added.
Virgin said its first hotel in Las Vegas and first casino anywhere will be a “modern desert resort oasis.” The casino floor will measure 60,000 square feet, and approximately 130,000 square feet of meeting and convention space is being remodeled. All 1,504 guestrooms are additionally being renovated.
New Las Vegas
The pandemic has led to every commercial casino in the United States temporarily closing. Las Vegas casinos are losing tens of millions of dollars each day.
Operators and employees are hoping to get back to some sense of normal sooner than later. Once it does, Virgin could bring in a new era that is more favorable to guests with the elimination of resort fees.
Every major casino on the Strip currently has a mandatory resort fee, which is tacked on at the end of the booking process. They’re as high as $45 per day at such luxury properties as Bellagio, Venetian and Palazzo, and Wynn.
Virgin Hotels, however, doesn’t charge resort fees. None of its current hotels, which are located in Chicago, Dallas, Nashville, and San Francisco, require guests to pay for local and toll-free calling, Wi-Fi, fitness center access, boarding pass printing, or notary service.
Virgin Hotels CEO Raul Leal says the company is committed to price transparency, and, as such, opposes resort fees.
Virgin All Aboard
Bosworth’s Virgin Hotels Las Vegas update comes just as California government officials signed off on issuing $600 million in tax-exempt bonds to Virgin Trains USA. The money is for the company to continue work on its high-speed rail system that would link Las Vegas to Southern California.
XpressWest, as the $4.8 billion project is known, would run from Victorville, California, to Las Vegas. Tax-exempt bonds are typically issued for projects that serve a civic purpose.
According to Merrill, tax-exempt bonds “are fixed-income investments that can provide higher after-tax returns than similar taxable corporate or government issues. In general, the interest paid on municipal issues is exempt from federal taxes and sometimes state and local taxes as well.”
If the high-speed rail is completed, passengers could travel the 188 miles from Southern California at 180 mph to reach Sin City in a little more than an hour. Southern Nevada would reap substantial economic benefits from XpressWest, claims Andy Kunz, president and CEO of the US High Speed Rail Association.
“It could double the number of people coming to Vegas,” he said. “It will encourage people to go more often.”
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