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Rock-themed hotel-casino set for Las Vegas

LAS VEGAS -- The president of the Hard Rock Cafes and Harrah's Casino Hotels said Wednesday they plan to open a $65 million rock 'n' roll-themed Hard Rock Hotel in Las Vegas.

The estimated completion date for the 12-story 326-room hotel, which will feature a 130-foot replica of a Fender guitar smashing through its roof, is late next year, spokeswoman Valerie Van Gelder said. Harrah's, a unit of Promus Cos. of Memphis, Tenn., holds the gaming license, she said.

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Harrah's, which operates casinos in Nevada and New Jersey, will manage the hotel and casino.

Peter Morton, who co-founded the restaurant chain 20 years ago, and Harrah's will have equity stakes in the project, which will include a 75-foot-long piano keyboard, a revolving vintage Cadillac, light shows and guitar-shaped roulette tables.

'I think they may be able to attract a younger crowd than what traditionally comes to Las Vegas,' said Michael Mueller of Montgomery Securities in San Francisco. 'Something like this may fit in very well. '

Mueller said Las Vegas, which draws about 20 million visitors a year, has received a significant boost in recent years through the opening of the Mirage and Excalibur Hotels, along with the upgrading of several other properties. And MGM Grand is working on a huge new casino-hotel- theme park with a price tag of $750 million.

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'Las Vegas was down a bit during the war, but it has come back fairly strongly,' Mueller said.

The hotel-casino will be decorated with rock memorabilia such as gold records, guitars, costumes and posters. It also will offer rock 'n roll acts in a 2,000-seat tented arena.

The property will feature a Desert Deli and Mortons, a version of the West Hollywood restaurant that caters to the entertainment crowd. It also is planning a record store and gift shop.

The Hard Rock Hotel will be adjacent to the Las Vegas Hard Rock Cafe restaurant which opened last September.

Morton founded the first Hard Rock Cafe in London in 1971, then opened the Los Angeles outlet in 1982. The chain of 11 restaurants, which feature American-style cuisine and nonstop rock music, will hit sales of over $100 million this year, the company said.

The other Hard Rock Cafes are located in San Francisco, San Diego, Honolulu, Maui, New Orleans, Houston, Chicago, Aspen, Colo. and Sydney.

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