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Howard Stutz

Employees at Caesars, Bally's Upbeat About Merger With Harrah's

14 June 2005

After almost 30 years of parking cars and handling luggage for customers at Caesars Palace, Gary Bruno has seen a fair share of ownership changes. He compared the Strip's resort's latest turnover to meeting his in-laws for the first time.

"It's like two big families meeting together," said Bruno, who has worked the main valet parking area at Caesars Palace since the 1970s. "You're looking forward to it, but you're a little apprehensive because you want to do everything right. We're all a little apprehensive, but we're not really afraid."

Harrah's Entertainment picked up Caesars Palace as part of its $9 billion buyout of Caesars Entertainment Monday, marking the sixth ownership change Bruno and other long-standing Caesars Palace employees have experienced in the past two decades.

Harrah's gained possession of three other Strip resorts operated by Caesars Entertainment: Flamingo Las Vegas, Bally's and Paris Las Vegas.

For Caesars Palace's 3,900 employees, the ownership switch didn't translate into a management change. Current hotel President Mark Juliano will remain in charge, reporting to Harrah's Western Division President Tom Jenkins.

The 2,368-room resort -- a 949-room hotel tower addition opens in August -- is considered one of the prizes in the transaction.

For frontline employees like Bruno, the change may translate into an influx of new customers, although some will be old faces.

"We already get a lot of customers from other properties, including Harrah's," Bruno said. "I know we have a very high-end reputation and we're quite happy with that. But if you walk around our casino and get past all the high-end slot machines, there are quite a few penny slot machines. We're a big casino and we're ready for anyone."

Across Las Vegas Boulevard, the mood at Bally's was also upbeat. Longtime employees welcomed Harrah's as a company that may invest toward upgrading the 2,814-room resort that was the original MGM Grand in the 1970s and early 1980s.

On Monday, Harrah's Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Gary Loveman said Bally's would be renovated and rethemed under a new name, although the company will take some time to evaluate different options.

"We need something new, and I think Harrah's is going to bring something new," said Virginia Kirvay, a Bally's dealer for the past 12 years. "Las Vegas is about everything new; it's not a history town."

Employees at Caesars, Bally's Upbeat About Merger With Harrah's is republished from