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Gaming Guru

Jeff Simpson
 

Jeff Simpson on How Harrah's Massive Project at Center Strip is Going to Take More planning Than Originally Thought

26 September 2006

What should be the biggest business news story of the year in Las Vegas is now expected to be announced a little later than originally planned. Harrah's Entertainment's mammoth redevelopment of the Center Strip area was set to be announced by the end of this month, but all of the details are yet to be finalized.

The total project cost is likely to be more than MGM Mirage's $7 billion- plus Project CityCenter. Among the pricey components: hundreds of millions in land acquisitions along Koval Lane and behind Harrah's Las Vegas, the Imperial Palace and the Flamingo; acquiring the Barbary Coast from Boyd Gaming Corp.; a major redevelopment of flagship Caesars Palace that will include utilizing much of its underutilized Strip frontage near Flamingo Road; demolishing the older of Bally's two hotel towers; and building a new resort (a Horseshoe, perhaps?) on the site and imploding the Imperial Palace, possibly using the space to expand and improve Harrah's.

Many of the existing two-story apartments and time shares behind its properties and on Koval Lane would also be demolished, probably making way for vertical condominium and time-share projects and parking garages.

The biggest mystery is what Harrah's will do with the Barbary Coast if it ends up with the property. Separating the project from other major developments up and down the Strip is the marketing muscle the company will use to unify the Center Strip properties as a single entity.

• • •

Owners and bosses of Internet casinos that take sports bets from Americans are quaking in their boots.

Despite the recent arrests of two top Internet gaming executives who made the mistake of setting foot on U.S. soil, what scares these operators is not the prospect of going to jail. What scares them is losing the lifeblood of their businesses: bets from American customers.

But jail for Internet bosses may be a sign that the federal and some state governments are serious about the companies that flout U.S. law.

BetOnSports Chief Executive David Carruthers was arrested by federal authorities July 16 in the Dallas- Fort Worth airport while changing planes on his way home to Costa Rica, where the company's sports betting and casino games are legal.

And Peter Dicks, the chairman of Sportingbet, a United Kingdom-based company that offers sports wagering and casino games, was arrested in New York on Sept. 6 on a warrant from Louisiana, a jurisdiction that reportedly has warrants outstanding for dozens of other online gambling honchos.

BetOnSports fired Carruthers after his arrest, before he was released on bail. And Dicks resigned soon after his arrest.

They didn't quit because of the shame of being arrested, but because as corporate officers they were considered legitimate representatives of their companies who could be served with subpoenas and other legal documents by federal and state officials — at least that's the explanation offered by one online gambling expert I spoke with.

Carruthers' arrest was less surprising to the online gaming world than was Dicks'. BetOnSports was considered a U.S. company run by Americans from a Caribbean sanctuary, a logical target for the Justice Department as it looks to enforce the Wire Act of 1961 — a law that clearly makes taking sports bets over phone lines illegal. But Sportingbet is a U.K. company largely run by British citizens, and Dicks' arrest sent a shock wave through the online world.

BetOnSports has already stopped taking bets from American gamblers under terms of a temporary restraining order, while Sportingbet has no plans to quit booking action from the world's biggest sports-betting market.

"It's the U.S. — or what's the point?" Sportingbet CEO Andrew McIver told the Financial Times. "I still hold that view."

Jeff Simpson is business editor of the Las Vegas Sun and executive editor of sister publication In Business Las Vegas. He can be reached at 259-4083 or at simpson@ lasvegassun.com.

Jeff Simpson on How Harrah's Massive Project at Center Strip is Going to Take More planning Than Originally Thought is republished from Online.CasinoCity.com.