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Best of Howard Stutz

Gaming Guru

Howard Stutz

Caesars chairman and Celtics owner Loveman says casino industry and NBA have unique connection

4 June 2012

Caesars Entertainment Corp. Chairman Gary Loveman finally got some bragging rights over Carnival Cruise Lines founder Ted Arison on Friday night.

Loveman has a minority ownership stake in the Boston Celtics, which beat the Miami Heat, 101-91, in the third game of the teams’ best-of-seven NBA Eastern Conference Championship series. The Heat leads the series, two games to one.

Arison, whose cruise line has casinos aboard his ships, is the majority owner of the Miami Heat.

Ownership in the NBA seems to be a haven for the gaming industry.

I asked Loveman about the subject last month in Cleveland, prior to the opening of the $350 million Horseshoe Casino Cleveland. Caesars owns 20 percent of the casino and is managing the facility in a joint venture with Rock Gaming.

Dan Gilbert, the CEO of Rock Gaming, owns the NBA’s Cleveland Cavaliers.

“It’s just something about the NBA and the gaming industry where there is a connection,” Loveman said, adding the NBA doesn’t have an issue with casino operators, unlike the National Football League and Major League Baseball.

“There are different ways NBA ownership and the gaming industry are connected,” Loveman said.

For example, Herbert Simon, chairman emeritus of Simon Property Group, which develops shopping malls attached to casinos, including The Forum Shops at Caesars Palace, is majority owner of the Indiana Pacers.

The most prominent connection between the NBA and Las Vegas is through the Maloof family, which built the Palms Casino but now has just a minority stake in the off-Strip property. The family also owns the Sacramento Kings.

Loveman said the most unique connection is on Caesars’ board of directors, where he is chairman.

David Bonderman, the founding partner of TPG Capital – one of two private equity groups that bought out Caesars Entertainment in 2005 – has an ownership stake in the Philadelphia 76ers.

Last month, Loveman’s Celtics eliminated Bonderman’s 76ers from the playoffs.

“It often gets interesting for us when the Celtics and 76ers play,” Loveman said.