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Best of Liz Benston

Gaming Guru

Liz Benston

Reilly to Lead Harrah's Philanthropic Efforts

12 September 2006

LAS VEGAS, Nevada -- Harrah's, arguably the most aggressive and expansion-minded of casino companies, may have landed just the right front-office executive to help win over public officials and community groups.

The company, which is aiming to build casinos in as many states as possible, and to spread its name overseas, announced Monday it landed Thom Reilly, the widely admired, former Clark County manager.

To take the job, Reilly is resigning as vice chancellor of the Health Sciences Center for the Nevada System of Higher Education - an executive post he took a month ago. Starting Sept. 22, Reilly will become vice president of community reinvestment and social responsibility for Harrah's Entertainment.

Reilly will lead the company's philanthropic efforts .

He will join an A-list government-relations staff that includes former Las Vegas Mayor Jan Jones and Marybel Batjer, former chief of staff for Gov. Kenny Guinn.

In a note to university system Chancellor Jim Rogers, Reilly said his new job would allow him to gain experience "at both the national and international level."

Reilly has the kind of credentials to make any employer proud. Amid corruption and financial scandals that enveloped other county officials, Reilly has maintained both his integrity and his reputation. He had the respect of co-workers and critics alike, as well as leaders in both political parties.

Reilly's background perfectly fits a company that needs to make a good impression with public officials who are unfamiliar with casinos as well as the critics who oppose them. Harrah's wants to build a global empire to rival its top domestic position by expanding its Caesars brand in Europe and Asia.

At Harrah's biggest competitor in town, MGM Mirage, an executive calls Reilly a tough negotiator as well as a boon for the casino industry.

"Thom, in my mind, is an outstanding example of what a public servant ought to be," MGM Mirage spokesman Alan Feldman said. "I thought it was a loss for the county when he left. It's a big gain for Harrah's and a big gain for the industry."