Harrah's CEO Places Strange Bet on Women Who Wear High-Heels in Atlantic City

Last Updated Mar 25, 2010 7:43 PM EDT

I'm sure that reporter Deena Beesley thought it was a unique lead on her profile of Harrah's Entertainment chief executive Gary Loveman, but instead it kind of painted him as a stiletto-worshipping foot fetishist.
The chief executive officer of Las Vegas-based Harrah's Entertainment Inc, the world's largest operator of casinos, says that he likes to see stilettos rather than flat heels.

To Loveman it means that the guests are literally and figuratively well-heeled. They are likely to spend more at the casino tables and at the machines, or in the hotels, shops and restaurants.

Its Atlantic City casinos, for example, have been going through rough times, something reflected in the flatter footwear.

"I have noticed that one can proxy this by the average heel height of the ladies visiting our casinos, which had historically been very low," he said during an interview at the Reuters Travel and Leisure Summit in New York.

So do you think he knew how creepy he sounded? I hope not. He also told readers of Catholic Online, "The ladies that are coming in on the bus at ten in the morning are wearing some pretty low heels. ... And the ladies coming in at 11 o'clock at night are wearing a lot higher heels."

As for the flatter heels in Atlantic City boding no good, Loveman also said in a report that he is worried about their Atlantic City holdings, especially since competitor Las Vegas Sands is already in Bethlehem, Penn. and Wynn Resorts is in process of developing a casino in Philadelphia. Slot machines and table games are now legal in Pennsylvania and the state could steal away most of the mid-Atlantic gaming revenue. Already Atlantic City's gambling revenue dropped last year, a 25% drop since 2006.

In this report, Loveman refrained from talking about women's footwear but still managed a foot metaphor.

Loveman said he did not believe any of the hotel-casinos would close, but said some could change hands or "limp along."

But other analysts and Atlantic City executives have said some of the weakest casinos could go belly-up as the market weakens. Four of the 11 hotel-casinos there are in some state of distress, according to Real Capital Analytics, which does not account for halted projects or those in construction.

Loveman, who makes his home in Boston, does have a lot to fear, mainly because they haven't integrated Harrah's Chester in Chester, Penn. with table games yet (and the company is in fairly dire financial straits so it's unlikely they can expand or build for a while.) And while he sounded bullish in the Reuters report, two weeks earlier he told the same reporter something else.
"We are the cheapest date in the world ... That generates lots and lots of visitors," said Gary Loveman, CEO of Harrah's, the world's largest gambling company. "Las Vegas remains weak and will remain weak for the foreseeable future."
Either way, I wouldn't want to be in his shoes -- I don't like stiletto heels.

Photo: Marilyn M