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Gaming Guru

Rod Smith
 

Inside Gaming: Survey Says: Las Vegas Worth Second Look

3 August 2004

It seems the latest MRC Group Research Institute survey of visitor attitudes has caused quite a stir. As reported in the Las Vegas Review-Journal Business section July 20, it found visitors growing leery of Las Vegas. Because of all the "off-the-record" fuss the survey caused, MRC has decided to conduct a follow-up national study to see if pricing perceptions are making people pick other destinations. It'll cost $150,000, but MRC's Jim Medick said it's worth the investment to better understand perceptions, rather than just screeching at one another.

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Join the crowd. National media last week used a lot of ink to beat up on the $9.4 billion Harrah's Entertainment-Caesars Entertainment merger. The Los Angeles Times carried a Marc Cooper column July 25 complaining the deal will homogenize casinos and encourage nongaming companies to use Harrah's database mining technology, which costs consumers their privacy. The Motley Fool called the deal "a one-shot act of desperation" that will be a mess for years because of "Caesars' shoddily inconsistent operation." Still, even critics said Harrah's is getting what it wants: an increased Strip presence and the chance to build a bigger database.

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Harrah's Entertainment CEO Gary Loveman, however, told BusinessWeek the criticism of the Harrah's-Caesars Entertainment is out of proportion. "We know what we're doing," he said, and dismissed investor concerns, especially about antitrust problems as "overblown."

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A mixed curse. Speaking of Loveman, senior company executives this week told 250 people at a national gaming conference at the Rio his telephone calls are common and feared in the ranks. "He seldom calls to say 'good job,' " one said. The most frequent complaints, they said, are that news or promotions have gone public before their time -- and before his approval. But they also said the contact with the CEO opens a window on broader strategy that is constructive, but rare, for midlevel managers to understand.

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Meanwhile, the sale of the Castaways by Vestin Mortgage to a partnership of Randy Miller, Rich Gonzales and Rich Iannone, owners of the Longhorn casino on Boulder Highway and the Bighorn casino in North Las Vegas, is proceeding smoothly. Miller said Vestin, which bought the former Showboat at a foreclosure sale in February, is letting the trio proceed with improvements even though the deal won't close until the partners are licensed. He said license applications should be filed within two weeks.