Hard Rock Atlantic City’s Joe Lupo ‘Uniquely Qualified’ To Lead Mirage Transformation In Las Vegas

Written By Bill Gelman on August 4, 2022 - Last Updated on April 25, 2023

Hard Rock International knows who they want running the show once they take over the Mirage Hotel & Casino from MGM Resorts. And that person is Joe Lupo, the current president of Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Atlantic City.

The company sent out a press release making the news official. Of course this is all pending the sale closing and Hard Rock receiving regulatory approval from the Nevada Gaming Commission.

From an AC casino perspective, Lupo is the current Casino Association of New Jersey president. So the trade organization will be appointing a new president soon. More importantly, he is the person who has led Hard Rock from being the new kid on the Atlantic City Boardwalk block in 2018 to the No. 2 overall when it comes to AC revenue.

Once Lupo heads west, Anthony Faranca, the current property GM, will take over as president Sept. 1.

Before any of these changes happen, here’s a closer look at how far Hard Rock AC has come since reopening the former Trump Taj Mahal four years ago.

Why Lupo is taking over Mirage transformation

Let’s be clear: the news of Lupo moving to Las Vegas is not a surprise. It falls into that “worst kept secret” category. As far as the why goes, Hard Rock International Chairman Jim Allen said Lupo is “uniquely qualified” to become the president of Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Las Vegas.

“As president of the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Atlantic City for the past four years, Joe Lupo has achieved amazing results,” Allen said.

“Thanks to his dedication and expertise, financial results continue to outperform expectations, while our team members share an unmatched commitment to guest service and satisfaction. I am confident Joe Lupo will achieve even greater success at the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Las Vegas.”

And Lupo is no stranger to Sin City, having previously worked for Boyd Gaming. One of those roles included being the director of race and sportsbook at the former Stardust Hotel & Casino. He also graduated from UNLV.

Of course the two markets are very different from one another. Mobile gaming apps like Hard Rock online casino, for instance, is not available to Nevada gamblers. The Silver State has yet to pass legislation allowing online slots and table games.

Hard Rock Atlantic City has come a long way

When Hard Rock AC opened during the summer of ’18, Lupo wasn’t part of the New Jersey team. He was working at Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Tampa.

Lupo arrived, or shall we say made his Atlantic City return later that year. Prior to joining Hard Rock, he served as senior vice president for Borgata Hotel Casino & Spa.

During these four years in Atlantic City, Hard Rock has continued to make a lot of noise. And we aren’t talking about the sold-out shows inside of Hard Rock Live at Etess Arena.

Looking at the latest Atlantic City casino revenue results, which do not include July, Hard Rock is well ahead of casinos that have been around since the late 1970s and early 1980s. Their year-to-date land-based casino revenue currently sits at $238 million, which is a year-over-year increase of nearly 30%.

Only the MGM-owned Borgata is ahead of them with $335.4 million.

However, the more impressive numbers come when comparing current results to Hard Rock’s 2019 performance, its first full year of operation. The land-based win total for the 12-month period came in at $324 million. The property will surely surpass that number later this year.

The news doesn’t come as a surprise being that the last two years were impacted by COVID restrictions. Plus this is the heart of prime season for AC casinos.

Lupo, Hard Rock AC made strides together

Like other gambling halls around town, a big part of Hard Rock’s success story has been reinvesting and constantly improving its North Beach offerings.

In June 2019, NJ Gambling Sites, a sister website of PlayNJ, spoke exclusively with Lupo regarding how well Hard Rock was performing as it approached its first Atlantic City anniversary.

At the time, Hard Rock ranked No. 2 in terms of table game drop and No. 4 in overall casino revenue. Lupo went on to say:

“And we are on the heels of some of our competitors who have been in the market for 20 years and have databases 10 times the size of ours.

“Again, I think that speaks to the brand. We have taken a very aggressive approach. I think we have to ensure we build a database. And thus far we are very happy.”

More recently, Hard Rock reinvested $20 million in capital improvements. Updating the suite product, opening a new Starbucks along with the Sandpiper Coastal restaurant were all part of it.

And n0w with Lupo relocating to the heart of the Las Vegas Strip, Hard Rock has no plans of stepping back as one of the AC market leaders.

Photo by Hard Rock
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Bill Gelman

Bill Gelman has been reporting on the NJ gambling market since 2018, right around when the Garden State launched sports betting. Bill transitioned from lead writer for PlayNJ and NJ Gambling Sites to his current role as managing editor in 2020. Besides offering in-depth analysis on NJ gambling market trends and news, Bill regularly sits down with Atlantic City casino industry executives to offer readers exclusive interviews and comprehensive coverage. Bill received a bachelor's degree in journalism from Ithaca College. He has contributed to other Catena Media sites including The Lines, Legal Sports Report, PlayPennsylvania and PlayCanada.

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