The pendulum swings |

The pendulum swings

The merger betwean Harrah’s and Harveys has gotten final approval, and nothing at the South Shore will be quite the same.

The fierce local competition betwean those two casinos served as the balance of power in the casino core for four decades. What Harrah’s did, Harveys did one better and vice versa.

Many decisions that affected the community, as well as the casino core, were made in an atmosphere of one-upmanship. If the building of Embassy Suites was going to shine light on Harrah’s bottom line, then Harveys would fight against the project. If, however, the proposed convention center was going to help fill the poker tables at Harveys, then Harrah’s would do what it could to block or slow the project.

It wasn’t that the two casinos couldn’t or wouldn’t work together. Some of the best events, projects or ideas came as a collective of all four casinos.

It’s just that Harveys and Harrah’s were neck and neck for the lion’s share of the South Shore casino market. And that competition fueled much of the area’s marketing agendas.

With Harrah’s now the biggest player at the casino core, that delicate

balance of power so closely tied up in competition will soon be coming to an end. While Horizon and Caesars are very much players in such organizations as the Lake Tahoe Gaming Alliance and Lake Tahoe Visitors Authority, Harrah’s holds the majority of marketing share. As such, Harrah’s hold the real clout for marketing and product decisions on the South Shore. And that could change the way the South Shore does business.

For many years, the drive-up market was the main focus of most joint

advertising campaigns. While that has changed somewhat in the last five

years, the business community still puts much of its resources into

maintaining that drive-up market.

But if Harrah’s decides to pursue Lake Tahoe as its crown jewel for high

rollers or frequent players, marketing for the drive-up customer may fall to such organizations as the South Lake Tahoe Lodging Association. That may mean fewer dollars spent on the South Shore’s bread-and-butter market.

On the other hand, if Harrah’s follows Heavenly Ski Resort’s model of

teaming with large national or international organizations, such as Virgin Air, the number of visitors staying longer than a weekend will significantly increase. That could be good for everyone’s bottom line, especially if area businesses are weaned away from relying on a drive-up market that is getting harder to attract.

On a local level, Harrah’s as leader of the pack offers a mixed bag.

On the downside are the employees who will lose their jobs with the merger.

Many departments, such as purchasing or transportation, will become

redundant. That loss of jobs will be keenly felt at the South Shore,

particularly since so many were high paying jobs.

Local vendors on contract with Harveys are also on the losing end of this

deal. Harrah’s, which has its corporate offices in Las Vegas and a casino in Rent, works with national contractors on a large scale. Harveys, which had its corporate office at the lake, used local vendors in a far greater capacity.

On the upside, the casino core stands its best chance ever of revamping into a world-class attraction. Squabbles over market share should be a distant memory. Harrah’s – along with Caesars, which just renewed its lease, and Horizon – has much more incentive to implement the long-discussed plans for the redevelopment of the casino core.

There is no doubt the South Shore is in for some rocky times with the new balance in casino power. But the long-term benefits may be just what the South Shore needs.

Using the hammer wisely

In an editorial two weeks ago, I took to task Steve Teshara, head of the

Coordinate Transit System, for what I perceive as the CTS’s crawl toward

completion. I should have hammered so many more, like the board that

approves CTS contracts and progress. Teshara is by no means the lone voice of CTS. My comments regarding CTS were not meant to speak to Teshara’s character or his involvement in other projects on the South Shore. The gist of my editorial was about accountability on just one project – CTS.

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