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Virgin's Mohegan Sun Becomes First Tribal Casino In Las Vegas


Tribal casinos have sprouted up all over North America, but only one tribe has broken into the Las Vegas market. 

Last month, Mohegan Gaming and Entertainment -- the business operation of the Mohegan Indian Tribe -- began operating its first local casino. 

The Mohegan Sun Casino takes up almost all of the casino floor inside the new Virgin Hotels Las Vegas, which is the former Hard Rock Hotel. 

Ray Pineault is the interim CEO and acting COO for Mohegan Gaming and Entertainment and has worked for the Mohegan Tribe for nearly 20 years. 

“I think this tribe has always been at the forefront of trying and expanding new things, and obviously, Las Vegas is the pinnacle of the gaming market and we knew it was a region we had to be in,” he said. 

Pineault said there is no real difference between commercial gaming operations and tribal gaming except that they are under different jurisdiction. Tribal gaming is controlled by the tribes.

In the case of Mohegan Gaming, the Mohegan Tribe controls the operation. Pineault explained that the day-to-day operations are managed by casino operators, but the tribal counsel sets out the company’s goals.

With that, the tribe’s values infuse the whole organization, he said.

The spirit of aquai is, according to Pineault, is the spirit of welcoming, cooperation and mutual respect.

“That is who we are as an organization and the tribe’s values are what makes this organization special and makes it unique for who we are and how we operate and where we bring our culture to every property that we operate,” he said.

It will also guide the cooperation at Virgin Hotel Las Vegas, Pineault said.

The casino will be run by Mohegan Sun, but other parts of the hotel, dining and entertainment will be managed by other partners. Pineault credited Virgin Hotels, JC Hospitality and Hilton for leading Mohegan to Las Vegas and "[creating] the right opportunity at the right time,” he said.

Mohegan Sun operates casinos in several different states and is expanding its operation in Korea, which is why Pineault said they are ready to tackle the Las Vegas market.

“While Las Vegas is obviously a very big market with a lot of the big players, we compete with a lot of those players in our regional markets that we already operate in,” he said.

To set themselves apart in Las Vegas, Pineault said they’ll be emphasizing excellent customer service, not just good service.

“Our team members need to be delivering 'A' guest service to guests every day,” he said. “We truly believe that anybody can deliver good guest service and people will always shop around for a better value if it’s good but they won’t shop around if it's excellent.”

He said people will drive further and pay more for excellent service, which he sees as the key to building loyalty.

They’ll also be using their vast database from other casinos to push out the new Virgin property.

As for other tribal gaming operations coming to Las Vegas, Pineault believes it is "inevitable." He said there are a lot of successful tribes in the country that are looking to expand.


​​Ray Pineault, interim CEO and acting COO, Mohegan Entertainment and Gaming

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Mike has been a producer for State of Nevada since 2019. He produces — and occasionally hosts — segments covering entertainment, gaming & tourism, sports, health, Nevada’s marijuana industry, and other areas of Nevada life.