Harrah's Chief Executive talks about US internet gambling

Senior executive believes that U.S. legalisation of online poker has the potential to generate billions in corporate revenues

Gary Loveman, chief executive of Las Vegas land gambling giant Harrah’s Entertainment, addressed again the issue of US online gambling legalization in an interview with the Reuters news service that is being widely publicised this week.

Whilst taking a rather pessimistic view of a quick recovery for Las Vegas land gambling, Loveman told Reuters that he believes U.S. legalisation of online poker could bring in billions more in revenues for his company.

The interview was set against a background of Harrah’s first-quarter losses that have widened to $195.6 million from $132.7 million in the corresponding period last year as revenue fell nearly 3 percent to $2.19 billion.

Harrah's, which was bought by private-equity firms TPG Capital LP and Apollo Management LP in a 2008 $31 billion leveraged buyout, operates more than 50 casinos in six countries, including Las Vegas resorts like Caesars Palace and Paris.

Aside from an expansion of its land gambling activities in Asia, Loveman said priorities for Harrah's include the possible legalisation of online poker in the United States. He opined that legislation in the works from pro-legalisation politicians like Congressman Barney Frank has a good chance of success, given that it would raise significant tax revenue, regulate a business that is currently unregulated and create jobs.

Loveman said U.S. legalisation of online poker would generate billions of dollars in revenue for U.S. operators.

"We [Harrah’s] would enjoy a substantial portion of that," Loveman said, noting that Harrah's owns the popular World Series of Poker tournament and brand.

He said the company's online unit, Harrah's Interactive Entertainment, operates in the United Kingdom and will next launch in Italy and France.

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