Harrah’s gets hand up in New Orleans

Mar 13, 2001 7:56 AM

HARRAH’S HELPERS! From a Louisiana rosebud: "It appears as if the people at Harrah’s Entertainment (HET) are getting help from Gov. Mike Foster in their bid to keep the land-based casino open.

"The casino begged for a tax reduction, restaurant facilities and greater freedom to operate a hotel. At the request of the guv, the Louisiana Gaming Control Board is willing to offer Harrah’s a new pact to keep its doors open. That’s powerful help even though the final decision rests with the state legislature. Vote counters are saying the measure needs more support form the lawmakers to pass. But, let’s face it, with the guv on the bandwagon, the solons are apt to see it Foster’s way. And on a recent radio show, Foster warned lawmakers that some of Harrah’s money would be used for teachers’ pay. And if they oppose his teacher-pay plan, they do so at their own political peril."

From another source: "If the casino company gets final approval, it will probably take three years to develop the vacant second floor of the casino and open a hotel.

"If it takes three years to expand, will the $50 million annual tax cut fade costs until restaurants and hotel rooms arrive?"

CARD COUNTERS, SKIDOO! An in-the-knowster who gives me spy reports on casino activity was on the telephone. He apologized for being away on holiday, but promised to make up for it.

"There’s something going on at Caesars Palace that might be worth the interest of your readers. It seems that the eight blackjack games in Pit 6 (near the race and sports book) have been having their clocks cleaned by a team of card counters. Don’t ask for attribution. With a story like this, no one’s talking on the record. But believe me, the casino is well aware of the situation.

"One of my sources tells me it got so bad that the Big 6 wheel was earning more money than the blackjack tables. That might be an exaggeration, but it gets the point across. It seems that team players (some MIT groupies) have been running down the six-shoe games to perfection.

"In a measure to combat the counters, Caesars Palace turned the BJ games into eight-deck shoes.

"It’s highly unlikely they’ll want to try to run down eight decks. Also, the Pit 6 games hit on soft 17 and have a limit of $1,000."

BIG TIME POKER! Poker players are all abuzz about a $1 million freeze-out game held last week at a Strip hotel.

"A visitor with a thirst for action and a bankroll to support wandered into the poker room. He wanted to play some high stakes ($20,000 to $40,000) hold ”˜em. I’ve been playing poker in this town for 20 years. It was quite a game," said a pipe.

The outcome?

More pipe: "The visitor and his bankroll were soon separated!"

Calls were placed to the two Strip that stage the biggest action ”” Bellagio and The Mirage. No one was talking.

STAY ON THE POKER BEAT: From a rosebud wise to the ways of the Internet: "Poker action on the Net is unbelievable. I have heard of one site that hosts thousands of players. The games are nine-handed. Seventy games an hour can be dealt. And at $3 a hand, one website operator tells his friends he died and went to heaven.

"I read the story in GamingToday last week that poker is fading in Las Vegas. Maybe so ”” but not on the Internet, believe me."

HOT! HOT! HOT! Aristocrat Gaming’s Penguin Pays slot game, on field trial at Sunset Station, has the joint jumping.

An Australian gaming analyst has published a report saying the game is generating revenues of $385 per day per machine. That’s more than three times the average of all other slots at Sunset Station.

SPLISH, SPLASH, I WAS TAKIN’ A BATH! The old song could be the one being hummed by "Junior" Johnson, founder, chairman and CEO of Las Vegas-based PurchasePro.com.

A year ago ”” March 27, in fact ”” Johnson poured $3 million into his company, buying stock on the open market. He purchased 26,500 shares at an average price of $114.48 a share.

Johnson announced Monday that he was going to be selling some of his shares, maybe as much as 20,000. The notice to the SEC noted that "the amounts to be sold could be zero, 2,500 shares or up to 20,000 shares." The sales could begin as soon as March 26.

After trading down 81 cents a share on 3.5 million traded, the stock closed Monday at $10 a share.

FLYING TO THE MIDDLE EAST! Mike Pegram, prominent horse owner and Las Vegas bon vivant, is on his way to Dubai to see his Captain Steve race in the world’s richest race, the $6 million Dubai on Saturday, March 24. Captain Steve is co-favorite in the race.

Accompanying Pegram will be his pal and running mate, Dan Chandler, well-known casino executive. Chandler has been visiting Pegram in his home in Scottsdale, Ariz., while he attends Well For Life clinic nearby.

"I lost 24 pounds and will return after Dubai to lose another 30 pounds," Chandler said.

He also said one of Pegram’s horses named in his honor, Chandlerthehandler, is on a farm recuperating from an injury. But Pegram has another named in his honor ”” Danthebluegrassman ”” an unraced 2-year-old.

HAPPY BIRTHDAY, ELIAS! All the swells in town and maybe even a few not-so-swells showed up for Elias Ghanem’s surprise birthday party Friday at Piero’s. Dr. Elias Ghanem, the swellest of swells, is high on the list of most loved Las Vegans. He’s not an easy guy to surprise. But when his buddy Mike Ensign invited him for dinner Elias was fooled. He had no idea a long list of relatives and friends would be waiting at the restaurant. He was accompanied by his wife, Jodi. The party was staged by his daughters, Crystal and Ann, and his son, Elias Jr. The birthday cake was part of the fete. When it was wheeled in, everyone rose to their feet to sing "Happy Birthday." A handful of the attendees got up and told warm anecdotes about the birthday boy. He was touched.

Among the casino names were Frank and Vickie Fertitta, Mr. & Mrs. Gary Primm, Dean Harrold, John and Mike Ensign, Bill Richardson. Politicos were aplenty ”” Mayor Oscar Goodman and his wife, former U.S. Sen. Richard Brian and his wife, former Gov. Bob Miller and his wife. Also, Frank Schreck and his son, Derek, Sue Sullivan, Margo Rogich (Sig was in Washington), the Jacobses, the Molaskis, Matty Graves, Mr. & Mrs. Larry Ruvo, Dawn Rossi ”” and on and on, numbering about 60 attendees.