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Gaming moguls differ on licenses

Dec 24, 2007 4:32 AM

Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick attempted to jump start his campaign for at least three casino licenses in the Bay State last week while political opposition to the plan continued to grow.

But the hearings gave two Massachusetts-linked casino moguls a chance to express their views on the future of gambling in that state.

Squaring off were Boston-native Sheldon Adelson, principal shareholder and CEO of Las Vegas Sands Corp. (LVS), and current Boston resident Gary Loveman, chairman and CEO of Harrah’s Entertainment Inc. (HET).

Adelson, whose company would build a $1.5 billion gaming complex in the Marlboro area if a license were granted, said the state should limit the licenses to two since "three is too many." He added that he believed, "you’ll never cut off that flow of money to Connecticut unless you build something equal to or better in Massachusetts. The more casinos you put up, the more dilution there is."

Loveman, who stands to reap a hundred million dollar windfall in early ’08 when Harrah’s Entertainment is taken over by two private equity companies, disagreed. He said he was confident Massachusetts can support three casinos.

"We’re nowhere near oversaturation”¦there’s a lot of room to grow here," he said, adding that he believed the state’s annual revenue would be in the $600 million range, far exceeding Patrick’s estimate.

Although Harrah’s Entertainment has not as yet found a site for its proposed casino, Loveman reportedly has been in talks with representatives of Suffolk Downs racetrack, considered a prime site for a Boston-area license.

Meanwhile, gambling’s principal opponent, House Speaker Salvatore Di Masi continued his opposition although he has agreed to give Patrick’s proposal a hearing and a subsequent vote.

And the state’s racetracks are counting on a defeat of the Patrick plan so that further consideration can be given to their plan to permit the tracks to install slot machines, a plan that has been popular in Rhode Island, New York, Pennsylvania, Delaware, West Virginia and in more western states.