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All bets are off for monopolies

1 July 2001

In September, Nevada casino regulators will meet to discuss state rules created to prevent the control of gambling markets by a few companies. They’ve called the hearings, expressing concern that the rules do not specify what constitutes a monopoly, after recent casino purchased on Lake Tahoe in Mesquite and Stateline resulted in two relatively small casino communities being dominated by a few companies. These purchases were preceded by others along the same vein. In addition, Harrah''s Entertainment plans a US$675 million purchase of Harveys Casino Resorts, giving Harrah''s the two biggest casinos on Lake Tahoe''s south shore. The regulations have never been called upon to block a casino purchase although they were instituted in the 1960s to block Howard Hughes'' planned purchase of a major Las Vegas hotel-casino on antitrust grounds after he had already bought several others. MGM Grand''s US$6.4 billion purchase of Mirage Resorts last year was approved despite estimations that the combined companies control approximately 50 percent of the Las Vegas high-end gambling market. According to Nevada Gaming Commission Chairman Brian Sandoval, the commission plans to update and clarify the rules. Casino industry expert Bill Eadington, the director of the University of Nevada, Reno''s Institute for the Study of Gambling and Commercial Gaming, felt that the time had come for Nevada to eliminate or streamline the state rules. "Scrapping the Nevada rules would fit with the state''s historic pattern of liberalizing rules to encourage investment in the state," said Eadington.

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