LAS VEGAS-Harrah’s Entertainment has filed an application with state regulators to run the gaming at Planet Hollywood Resort and Casino. The news comes just days after CEO Gary Loveman sent an internal email to employees confirming the company’s interest in acquiring the 2,500-room Las Vegas Strip Resort, and a couple of months after the company purchased a chunk of the defaulted debt tied to the property, which is scheduled to open a new residential tower this month.

PHW LLC, a subsidiary of Harrah’s, applied for licensure for non-restricted gaming at Planet Hollywood, sources within the Nevada Gaming Control Board tell The next step is for control board agents to investigate the application and write up a report. The Gaming Control Board will then review the report and make a recommendation to the ultimate authority for such matters, the Nevada Gaming Commission.

Planet Hollywood is owned and operated by Planet Hollywood International Inc., which is controlled by Robert Earl, its founder and chief executive. A joint venture of Earl, Bay Harbour Management and Starwood Hotels and Resorts created Planet Hollywood from the Aladdin Resort they acquired in June 2003. The property’s new 52-story Westgate residential tower has 1,200 suites and 28 penthouses.

It is not yet clear exactly when Harrah’s gaming license application might go before the Gaming Control Board next year, only that the application is likely to go before the Nevada Gaming Commission for a final decision in the same month. The investigative process for an existing licensee –Harrah’s operates seven casinos on the Las Vegas Strip alone – is typically shorter than for a new licensee.

Planet Hollywood occupies the northeast corner of Harmon Avenue, diagonally across the Strip from MGM Mirage’s new CityCenter development. More importantly for Harrah’s, it sits at the south end of six contiguous Harrah’s-owned properties on the eastside of the Las Vegas Strip. The properties sit directly across the Strip from Caesars Palace, which is also owned by Harrah’s, and the Bellagio.

“The Planet Hollywood resort is currently in default to its lenders,” Loveman reportedly stated in the email, according to the Las Vegas Sun. “As a result of our purchase of their debt, we are working on a plan that also would allow Harrah’s to own and manage the property.”

Planet Hollywod reported a $17.5-million third quarter loss earlier this month and disclosed that lenders are now in control of its finances. Harrah’s said it lost $1.6 billion during the third quarter of 2009, mostly due to the acknowledgement of a $1.33-billion drop in the fair value of its assets. The locally based operator of more than 50 casinos around the world and seven on the Las Vegas Strip is carrying a $19-billion debt load related mostly to its privatization, which was led by Apollo Global Management LLC.

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