Casino giant lobbying for major Irish operation

Executives from one of the biggest casino operators in the world have been lobbying government departments about changes to gambling legislation – while dangling the possibility of building a EUR 350 million resort casino here, which would create 2,000 jobs.

Las Vegas-based Harrah’s Entertainment, which owns over 50 casinos worldwide, made representations to the Department of Justice earlier this year. The move comes at a time when the outgoing Minister for Justice, Brian Lenihan, was considering introducing new legislation to legalise licensed casinos and establish a gambling commission, to act as a regulator for the sector.

However, Harrah’s, which owns Caesar’s Palace, the Imperial Palace and the Paris casinos in Las Vegas, has suggested that any such move could include rules about the minimum size allowable for a resort casino. Harrah’s specialises in resort casinos, which include other facilities like a hotel, spa, restaurants, bars and high-end retail outlets.

Last year, it had revenues of EUR 7 billion and a reported net profit of EUR 380 million. It has 35,000 hotel rooms connected to casinos all over the world.

It operates 36 casinos in the US, as well as others in Britain, Canada, Macau, Uruguay and Egypt. It has joint ventures with native American tribes in casino ventures in three American states, and is completing a EUR 2.5 billion casino resort with local partners outside Madrid.

The Harrah’s executives highlighted that the casinos in their resorts typically took up less than 10 per cent of the total floor space.

They described how such a venture would include a 200300 room four-star hotel and other leisure facilities.

With the opening of the new national convention centre in 2010, and the need to introduce legislation to cover existing private gambling clubs, several major international casino and online gaming companies have been examining the possibility of setting up here.

New legislation is only likely to follow from a cross-party committee, which Lenihan had sought to establish before leaving the Department of Justice last week.