Gary Loveman announced his resignation as CEO of Caesars in February after a tumultuous career leading one of gambling’s most famed brands, but unfortunately for his legacy, much will be made about how he’s leaving the iconic conglomerate.
In the beginning of 2015, Caesars split its company into two units, Caesars Entertainment Corporation (CEC) and Caesars Entertainment Operating Company (CEOC), the latter taking on the massive $18.4 billion debt load and filing for Chapter 11 bankruptcy.
The MIT-educated casino executive recently sat down with Nevada Public Radio to clear the air on everything from his position on the Restoration of America’s Wire Act (RAWA) and frustrations in expanding online poker to Caesars’ current economic standing.
Loveman has been a champion of online gambling throughout his tenure, but it’s the continued ban on Internet poker that has caused him the most pain.
While he was one of the leading proponents of legalizing Internet poker in Nevada and launching the WSOP and Caesars online gaming networks, Loveman says the industry has stalled due to player liquidity.
“We don’t have a sufficient population of people from other states playing to make the offering as compelling as it needs to be,” Loveman explained. “This is one of the great frustrations of the years I’ve been in this industry is that something that is so intellectually straightforward has been so difficult to execute.”
According to Loveman, his frustrations stem from the sound player protections that are already available and in place to verify age and location, but both his political and industry foes, including RAWA proponent Las Vegas Sands billionaire Sheldon Adelson, persist to spread the message that online poker isn’t safe.
“The idea that Americans cannot legally play poker online if they choose to do so, and can verify their age and location, strikes me as almost crazy,” he stated.
But there is still hope, as the emergence and popularity of fantasy sports betting grows across the country, with Yahoo! and CBS Sports recently joining DraftKings and FanDuel, Loveman thinks a federal permit to bet on sports could lead to the end of iPoker prohibition.
“The solution for this is going to come from an unexpected place… I think you will see a federal action that legalizes sports betting. I think poker will very naturally fall in because it has an awful lot of similarities to fantasy sports.”
Loveman began orchestrating a leveraged buyout to privatize Caesars starting in 2006 with private equity investors, something in hindsight he calls “precisely the most inopportune time.”
“At that time when the deal was confected, everybody wanted to participate, all the major private equity firms,” he defended. “This was seen as a great idea that was met with tremendous enthusiasm, but unfortunately in the wake of the financial circumstances that followed in 2008 became much harder.”
Though he’s rescinded his chief executive role to Mark Frissora, the former CEO of Hertz who brings with him zero gambling industry experience, Loveman is still chairman of the Caesars board, a position that will allow him to advise his successor.