High rollers are returning to Lake Tahoe, Caesars Entertainment’s top executive says

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By Ray Hagar, Nevada Newsmakers

High rollers and big bettors are re-discovering Lake Tahoe, Caesars Entertainment’s top executive said this week on Nevada Newsmakers.

“We were completely surprised about the demand for the large players, the big high-rollers that go to Caesars Palace and go to Las Vegas,” Executive Chairman of the Board Gary Carano said.

“We have only had the keys to the kingdom a short while but we think there is a lot of opportunity,” Carano told host Sam Shad about the Lake Tahoe market.

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Carano became the top executive of the largest gaming company in the world when his family’s Eldorado Resorts of Reno bought out Caesars Entertainment for $17.3 billion in July.

The powerful Caesars brand was maintained and the new corporation includes Harvey’s and Harrah’s at South Lake Tahoe. Yet Eldorado Resorts was forced to sell the nearby MontBleu Resort Casino, as a stipulation in the deal. The MontBleu previously operated as Caesars Tahoe and before that, as the Park Tahoe.

Carano recalled when Caesars Tahoe used to play host to high rollers, adding Harrah’s and Harvey’s had shut themselves out of the high-roller market by refusing their high-price bets.

Veteran Nevadan Journalist Ray Hagar is known for fair and tough reporting and invigorating commentary.

“I remember they (high rollers) used to love to go to Caesars Tahoe and wanted to come back to Harrah’s and Harvey’s at the lake, but the management policy up until we took over was that they would not accept the table limits that Las Vegas would. So with our culture, our policy and our philosophy, we immediately told our general manager … to take the same limits they have anywhere at any Caesars Entertainment property. And it is amazing, the demand we have, and the high-limit play they are getting at the lake. That blew us away.”

Both Harvey’s and Harrah’s are undergoing major renovations. Carano recalled first seeing how badly the two hotel-casinos had fallen into disrepair.

“When we did our first tour, it was disheartening, really, to see the condition of the properties and the rooms,” Carano said.

The saving grace for the two properties was that they had “great bones,” Carano said, in describing the quality of their basic construction.

“They’ve just been neglected for years,” he added.

“The best rooms at the lake, up until recently when we started remodeling our rooms at Harvey’s, were the MontBleu rooms,” Carano said. “Tropicana Gaming did do a nice job in remodeling the rooms of the old Caesars Tahoe.

“But Harrah’s and Harvey’s, with Bill Harrah and Harvey Gross building those properties, did a fantastic job of creating great bones,” Carano said. “We are now remodeling those rooms at Harvey’s, those beautiful lakeside rooms with the lakeside views —  the best rooms of anywhere in the world, it seems.”

Carano noted the natural beauty of Lake Tahoe, pointing out the major attraction for visitors from high rollers to the penny-slot players.

“Everybody that knows Lake Tahoe knows there is only one Lake Tahoe in the world,” Carano said. “It is such a beautiful jewel.”

Carano also praised the “Reno-Tahoe” brand now embraced by those who market the area.

“From growing up and working in Reno and operating in Reno, finally Reno woke up and said, ‘OK, let’s call Reno, Reno-Lake Tahoe because people know where Tahoe is but people don’t know where Reno is,’ ” he said.

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