Caesars’ Gary Carano talks merger, promises culture shift at Tahoe casinos | nnbw.com
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Caesars’ Gary Carano talks merger, promises culture shift at Tahoe casinos

Kurt Hildebrand

The Record-Courier

Caesars Entertainment Chairman Gary Carano sits in his Reno office in 2018.
Photo: Kaleb M. Roedel

STATELINE, Nev. — Managers at Harrah’s and Harveys can expect to have more say in operating the two Lake Tahoe casino-resort properties under their new owners.

On Thursday morning, Caesars Entertainment Executive Chairman of the Board Gary L. Carano said the corporate structure of the newly merged company — formerly known as Eldorado Resorts — is far more focused on local management.

“That’s not how corporate gaming is in America for most companies,” he said. “It’s a huge culture change.”

Carano said that when Eldorado Resorts operated 26 casinos in 12 states, they had 250 total corporate employees, while Caesars had closer to 3,000.

“We want to empower the property management to make decisions with support of corporate,” he said. “That’s completely flip-flopped from what Caesars did in the past. When we told the managers it was music to their ears.”

Several of Carano’s family members work for the company.

“It goes back to our basic culture,” he said. “We want to put a family face on the biggest and best brand for gaming and hospitality in the world.”

An early and relatively easy change that will attract high rollers to the two casinos is to change the upper limits.

“We were completely surprised by the demand from the high rollers,” he said. “They wanted to come back to Harrah’s and Harveys, but their management policy wouldn’t accept the table limits that Las Vegas would. We told the GM to take the same limits that any Caesars property would. It’s amazing the demand we have and the high limit play we’re getting at the lake.”

Carano served as chairman of the board of Reno-based Eldorado Resorts since 2014. He was speaking Thursday at the Business Council of Douglas County’s 28th annual Critical Issues Conference.

He oversaw the acquisition of Caesars Entertainment Corp. by Eldorado; the $17.3 billion merger — which changed the company’s name to Caesars Entertainment — officially closed in July.

“We’ve only had the keys to the kingdom for a short while now, but there’s a lot of opportunity,” he said of the merger.

He described how Eldorado, which was essentially a small company that started out in Reno with the Eldorado Hotel, wound up in charge of the biggest casino companies in the world.

“We had some institutional investors who were not happy with what was going on at Caesars in late 2017,” he said. “We went to Caesars and asked if they were interested in selling, and they said no.”

Enter Carl Icahn, who started acquiring Caesars shares and managed to obtain enough seats on the board to prompt the merger with Eldorado.

“When we did our first tour, it was disheartening really to see the condition of the properties,” he said of Harrah’s and Harveys. “The best rooms at the lake were at the MontBleu because Tropicana did a great job.”

But he said the two iconic casinos, founded by Bill Harrah and Harvey Gross, have great potential.

“The properties have great bones,” he said. “They’d just been neglected for years.”

Eldorado previously owned MontBleu, but had to sell the property to Twin River Worldwide Holdings under the conditions of the $17.3 billion merger, which created the largest casino and entertainment company in the United States.

Before the merger was finalized, Caesars invested $41 million in work on Harveys in several major capital projects, including the renovation of all 519 guest rooms in the resort’s Lake Tower. Harveys also debuted Gordon Ramsay Hell’s Kitchen Lake Tahoe, as well as a new casino bar and lounge experience opening in 2020.

The combined company owns and operates more than 55 casino properties worldwide, including an iconic portfolio of eight casino hotel properties on the Las Vegas Strip.

Additionally, Caesars owns or operates casinos in 16 states across the U.S. including Nevada, Colorado, Missouri, Iowa, Florida, Mississippi, Louisiana, Ohio, Illinois, Indiana, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Arizona, North Carolina, California and Maryland.