How ’bout Harrah’s?

Mar 22, 2005 8:42 AM

Harrah’s Entertainment rumbles toward completion of the gaming industry’s biggest ever merger with Caesars Entertainment as some fascinating scenes are being played out.

One of the big questions in the $9.2 billion deal is whether Caesars Palace President Mark Juliano will stay put or leave.

Reliable sources have said Steve Wynn would welcome Juliano at his new super resort opening the end of April.

But top Harrah’s bosses believe letting Juliano get away would be a loss. Plus, Harrrah’s CEO Gary Loveman says he continues to be very impressed with the value of the Caesars brand around the world.

One of the issues that has plagued Loveman since the merger announcement is the notion that the very upscale, table game-oriented Caesars Palace does not comfortably mesh with Harrah’s culture. Caesars employees at every level have repeated this assertion as though it is a fact of life. Letting the Palace president get away does not make good sense if Harrah’s want to project the image of a seamless changeover.

In addition, there are potential complications that it may take a room full of lawyers to sort through. Many of them depend on whether Juliano wants to go or stay.

The current contracts of both Juliano and Flamingo President Lorenzo Creighton do not expire for another year, but Creighton already has unofficial approval to get out of his contract so he can accept a top job with MGM Mirage, supposedly as president of New York-New York.

Creighton leaving the Flamingo does not ring the same alarm bells associated with Juliano leaving Caesars because the Flamingo is already the sort of slots-oriented property that meshes nicely with Harrah’s approach to gaming.

The problem becomes, how does Caesars get around letting one man go, but telling another (Juliano) that he cannot be released from his current work agreement?

This, of course, presupposes Juliano wants to join Wynn and turn his back on the "romancing" he has been getting from Harrah’s execs who have met with all of the top property officials at the resorts Harrah’s is acquiring.

MGM officials have supposedly told Creighton that they want him and will support whatever effort it might take to get him out of his Flamingo contract.

Wynn, on the other hand, is supposedly not inclined to get into the legal dispute that might result from Juliano wanting to leave Caesars before the end of his contract.

It all comes down to what Juliano can be persuaded to pursue. Maybe he can have his cake and eat it too. We’ll soon see.

FROM PR TO POKER

Gary Thompson is now the man in charge of World Series of Poker operations for Harrah’s Entertainment as the company increases the attention it is paying to poker as a marketing tool.

The former Harrah’s spokesman didn’t waste time getting into his new job. He was spotted having dinner with Jack Binion and Doyle Brunson this past weekend.

The World Series has become a full-time job, what with Harrah’s planning and marketing World Series events throughout the year at all of its major properties.

Just finding enough poker tables to seat all of the estimated 5,000-10,000 entries expected for this summer’s championship event to be held at the Rio may tax the talents of Harrah’s officials. Then there is the work created by some big time television agreements and the myriad licensing rights Harrah’s will negotiate with some of the interests hoping to attach their name to poker’s premiere event.

Thompson is a former gaming writer for a Las Vegas newspaper who has also spent a lot of time at the poker tables. He laments the fact that as a Harrah’s employee he will not be able to play in World Series events. I suspect he’s crying all the way to the bank.