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Best of Howard Stutz

Gaming Guru

Howard Stutz

Casino Bosses Talk on TV

17 November 2005

LAS VEGAS – Any more joint appearances and they'll qualify as a lounge act.

Two months after sharing a stage at the Global Gaming Expo, Harrah's Entertainment Chairman Gary Loveman and MGM Mirage Chairman Terry Lanni took part in another public discussion Wednesday.

The chief executives of the casino industry's two largest companies debated various gaming matters while taping an appearance on "Nevada Week in Review," a weekly, half-hour public affairs program for KLVX-TV, Channel 10. The show is scheduled to air at 7:30 p.m. on Nov. 25, repeating at 7:30 p.m. on Nov. 26 and 11 a.m. on Nov. 27.

Host Mitch Fox quizzed the executives on several topics, including growth on the Strip, gaming expansion to Macau and Singapore, Internet gaming opportunities and the effect Gulf Coast hurricanes had on their businesses.

Both were bullish on Las Vegas in different ways.

While Lanni discussed MGM Mirage's 66-acre Project CityCenter development, which he said would now cost between $5 billion and $6 billion, Loveman said Harrah's is still trying to decide what to do with all the land it will soon own that stretches along the east side of the Strip from Paris Las Vegas north to Harrah's.

When asked if imploding Bally's to make way for a new resort was an option, Loveman was noncommittal. He said one of the hotel's two towers could be removed in renovating the resort.

"Every time I answer that question, we get around 2,000 requests for transfer," Loveman said of Bally's employees. "We're trying to look ahead at what the Strip will be like in around 2010 or 2012 in developing plans for the property."

The Gulf Coast hurricanes affected both Harrah's and MGM Mirage. Beau Rivage in Biloxi, Mississippi's largest casino, suffered about $500 million in damages from Hurricane Katrina. Lanni said it will take the company more than a year to rebuild the casino.

"It's estimated the total damage to the region was $50 billion, which means we represent 1 percent of the loss," Lanni said.

Loveman added that Harrah's, which had four casinos closed or destroyed by hurricanes and related flooding, will rebuild its casino in Biloxi, but is still evaluating whether or not to rebuild in Gulfport, Miss.

Lanni added that gaming should not be exempted from any federally backed hurricane relief.

While MGM Mirage is building a $1.015 billion casino in Macau, Loveman gave a reserved response to a question about whether the company would partner with Steve Wynn on a venture in the Chinese gaming enclave.

"We're talking with a lot of people about Macau," Loveman said.

Both companies are bidding on hotel-casino opportunities in Singapore.

Harrah's and MGM Mirage may have different operating strategies -- Harrah's is more widespread while MGM Mirage is predominantly concentrated in Nevada -- but the two chief executives found much common ground during the 30-minute discussion.

They agreed the federal government should lift restrictions on Internet gaming to allow American-based businesses to enter the market and cater toward American consumers, who make up about 70 percent of Internet casino customers.

"I think it will take a president and attorney general who gets it," Lanni said. "Wouldn't it be better to regulate here?"

Added Loveman, "I don't think there's a member of the House or the Senate who wants to make (legalizing Internet gaming) a dominant issue in the next campaign. I don't think anything is going to change."

Casino Bosses Talk on TV is republished from