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LAS VEGAS-A “significant sea change” is occurring within the casino industry, according to the top dog of Harrah’s Entertainment, the world’s largest gambling company by revenue and a private company since January. Speaking at a casino industry conference Wednesday, Gary Loveman said Harrah’s and its competitors will have to change how they do business.

Casinos were in an “arms race” to construct the next best destination resort, spending capital “like drunken sailors,” Loveman said. Since the economy collapsed casino companies have been desperately seeking liquidity, halting under-construction developments, slashing overhead and even selling off some assets. Boyd Gaming’s multi-billion dollar Echelon project, halted earlier this year, marked the first time in decades that a project on the Las Vegas Strip had been shut down after breaking ground.

Also speaking at the conference was MGM Mirage Inc. CFO Dan D’Arrigo, who predicted no new developments will come to Las Vegas for at least five years. A source with MGM who confirmed the statement tells GlobeSt.com that some estimates are much higher given the economic slowdown and the additional supply that will be coming on line in 2009 and 2010.

Among the Las Vegas projects expected to be delayed for several years are the multi-billion-dollar Plaza Hotel project on the former site of the New Frontier casino, redevelopments of the Riviera and Tropicana casinos, and MGM’s planned integrated resort adjacent to its Circus Circus casino resort at the north end of the Strip. An executive with Wynn Resorts did not return a phone call seeking that company’s take on the future of development in Vegas.

The day before the Nov. 4 election, Wynn Resorts chairman and CEO Steve Wynn described Las Vegas to analysts as “a little murky,” which he said is to be expected.

“It would strike me that if you were a rational, educated person, certainly somebody who had the accomplishment and success in life to be a customer of ours, if you were watching TV or reading the newspapers you would have to be half nuts to spend money instead of waiting around and checking things out to see how the world is going to shake out,” he said. “In terms of the consumer spending I think what we are seeing now is almost a freeze and like a muscle that is flexed you can’t hold it for very long. People will relax and return to their habits sooner, I think, than later. That is not to say I think revenue is going to skyrocket or go through the roof or return to other levels, but I think right now Las Vegas is seeing pretty much some of the worst of it.”

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