Tribal Moves in Atlantic City Could Impact Vegas

Two headlines out of Atlantic City, each involving tribal governments, could have an impact on Las Vegas.

The first is an ownership change: Mohegan Gaming Advisors, the entity that runs the Mohegan Sun casino on tribal land in Uncasville, Conn., has been approved by New Jersey regulators to take a minority stake in and manage Resorts Atlantic City, the city’s oldest casino hotel. This isn’t the first time a tribe has run a casino under the purview of state regulators—the tribe already owns and manages Mohegan Sun at Pocono Downs, a Pennsylvania racino. But it is a significant move, since Atlantic City is, after Nevada, the oldest commercial casino state in the United States.

The second bit of news isn’t about something that’s happening; it’s about something that’s not happening. Hard Rock International, which is owned by the Seminole tribe, is not moving forward with plans (always rather whimsical, in my opinion) of building a mini-casino in Atlantic City. The project, slated to cost $465 million, was scuttled due to concerns over the city’s weakening gaming market.

Which means, in my world at least, that the Seminole tribe has $465 million to spend on extending their Hard Rock empire to a mature gaming destination. That empire doesn’t currently include the Hard Rock Hotel Las Vegas.

Might the Seminoles make an effort to buy the Hard Rock Hotel?

It’s not totally unthinkable. It would let the tribe consolidate its Hard Rock brand by getting control over one of its most visible assets, currently owned by Brookfield Asset Management, a global real estate/investment conglomerate. It would give the Seminole casinos in Florida a leg up on any competition—the ability to reward loyal players with a trip to Las Vegas has driven the success of many Las Vegas-based casino companies with broad national footprints. And it would, symbolically at least, represent the ultimate proof that tribal government gaming has become a major force in the casino industry.

So while we might not be seeing a Hard Rock Atlantic City or a Mohegan Sun Las Vegas, it’s not beyond the realm of possibility that a Seminole-owned Hard Rock Hotel in Las Vegas could be in the cards.