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Richard Branson marks opening of Virgin hotel in Las Vegas

LAS VEGAS (AP) — Billionaire businessman and investor Richard Branson marked the opening Thursday of the new Virgin Hotels Las Vegas, promoting weekend events that kicked off with a show headlined by Christina Aguilera.

Branson, the English entrepreneur and founder of the Virgin brand, sprayed champagne at Nevada Gov. Steve Sisolak and other notables gathered to mark what organizers dubbed the “Unstoppable Weekend,” Las Vegas Review-Journal reported.

The property and its centerpiece Mohegan Sun casino opened March 25 after $200 million and more than a year of renovations of the 1,500-room former Hard Rock Hotel & Casino. Branson thanked the governor, a Democrat, for deeming the remodeling an essential construction business and letting it continue during the pandemic-spurred shutdown ordered in March 2020.

“We would not be open for another 18 months unless you had the initiative of allowing us to keep on going, so thank you for that,” he said. The 70-year-old aircraft magnate, hot-air balloonist and space exploration company chief said he decided against trying one of his trademark daredevil stunts during this visit to Las Vegas.

He rode a jet ski across the fountain pool at the Bellagio Hotel & Casino in 2010 to promote his airline and he cut his hand and tore his suit pants as he skidded on a zip line down the side of the Palms Casino Resort tower in October 2007.

“I nearly killed myself in Vegas, jumping off the top of the Palms building on a windy day,” he joked Thursday. Richard “Boz” Bosworth, president and CEO of the Virgin resort ownership group, JC Hospitality, said executives waited for the lifting of COVID-19 social distancing and capacity restrictions before holding the grand-opening bash.

“We wanted vibrancy. We wanted a party, and we wanted it to be safe,” he told the Review-Journal. Branson implored people to get vaccinated against COVID-19 so they can travel to Las Vegas.

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