Casino battle royale

By IAN DONNIS  |  October 11, 2006

Critics call his opposition to gambling selective. They note Almond’s acceptance of a $500,000 check from the Mashantucket Pequots, the owner of Foxwoods, for the Ryan Center at the University of Rhode Island. (The number of video slots approved for Newport Grand and Lincoln Park has also grown, to 6853, under Governor Donald L. Carcieri, up from 2478 when Almond was governor.)

Like other casino opponents, though, Almond draws a distinction between existing gambling interests and the casino proposal bankrolled by Las Vegas-based Harrah’s Entertainment. The former governor appears to be warming to the debate, making frequent speaking appearances before civic and fraternal groups, and after initially — and inexplicably — declining to do so, engaging with Thomas in public debates.

At minimum, Almond commands respect among the older suburban demographic that can be expected to vote in large numbers on November 7.

THE STRATEGISTS

Pro-casino
Matthew Thomas, a one-time janitor, huddles with the likes of former Las Vegas mayor Jan Jones and Harrah’s CEO Gary Loveman, a former Harvard Business School professor, in charting campaign strategy for the envisioned Harrah’s-Narragansett casino.

Jones is known to run the show, synthesizing recommendations from various sources and calling the shots, although Thomas is at every strategy meeting and is probably the second-most influential person in the decision-making process. As Harrah’s senior vice president for communications and government, Jones seems an outsized personality. Thomas calls her “the sharpest person I’ve ever met.”

A breast cancer survivor, she served as Las Vegas’ mayor from 1991-99 — a period in which she faced at least eight different ethics charges, all of which were either dropped or beaten, according to the alt-weekly Las Vegas Mercury. Although critics “found Jones a little too cozy with gaming executives,” and she acknowledged making mistakes in how she handled eminent domain in downtown development, the Mercury called her one of the highest-ranking women and “one of the most self-made women in the [gambling] industry.”

If Jones is the field marshal, Loveman is the corporate visionary behind Harrah’s overarching strategy.

A 2004 article in Fortune contrasted the CEO — who, over the last eight years, has built Harrah’s into the world’s largest gambling company — with other industry executives, nothing how he lives in the Boston suburbs and doesn’t sport bling beyond a thin gold wedding band. “But the most important difference between Loveman and his peers,” the magazine reported, “is that he believes Harrah’s can win by treating gambling like any other form of retail. That means instead of courting high rollers, Loveman is looking for frequent shoppers — the teachers, doctors, and accountants who walk through the doors to play the odds, again and again and again.”

This growth strategy has proven so successful that two private-equity firms recently offered to purchase Harrah’s outstanding stock — news that casino opponents seized upon in raising fresh questions about the casino proposal.

Other leading pro-casino strategists include David Satz, Harrah’s general counsel and vice president; Bob Duva; former West Warwick mayor Mike Levesque, who is tasked with outreach in the host community for the would-be casino; Jack Killoy, the Narragansetts’ lawyer; and media maven Clare Eckert, a former executive at WJAR-TV. Harrah’s representatives also meet regularly with such West Warwick legislators as Representative Timothy Williamson and Senator Stephen Alves, chairman of the Senate Finance Committee.

< prev  1  |  2  |  3  |  4  |   next >
  Topics: News Features , U.S. Government, U.S. State Government, Providence Performing Arts Center,  More more >
| More


Most Popular
ARTICLES BY IAN DONNIS
Share this entry with Delicious
  •   RHODY'S LOCAL FOOD MOVEMENT FINDS ITS GROOVE  |  February 23, 2009
    Five years ago, when Farm Fresh Rhode Island (FFRI) launched its mission of promoting Ocean State-produced food, co-founder Noah Fulmer discovered a curious disconnection in the local food chain.
  •   TICKET TO RIDE  |  February 11, 2009
    In April 1999, two weeks after I started on the job at the Providence Phoenix , the FBI raided City Hall, formally unveiling the federal investigation that would land Vincent A. "Buddy" Cianci Jr., Rhode Island's rascal king, behind bars.
  •   ADVOCATES RENEW PUSH FOR PUBLICLY-FINANCED RI ELECTIONS  |  February 04, 2009
    During a news conference Tuesday afternoon in the State House rotunda, proponents of significantly expanding publicly financed elections in Rhode Island — a concept they call "Fair Elections" — cited a litany of reasons for why it would be good for the Ocean State and its citizens.
  •   THE UPSIDE OF HOPE IN RHODE ISLAND  |  January 29, 2009
    Everywhere one turns these days, there's seemingly more bad news about Rhode Island: the unemployment rate, one of the highest in the nation, tops 10 percent — and the state's running out of unemployment assistance.
  •   BROGAN TAKES ON TEENS, SOCIAL NETWORKING IN TEASER  |  January 28, 2009
    Former Providence Journal reporter Jan Brogan is out with her fourth mystery, Teaser .

 See all articles by: IAN DONNIS