|By Suzette Parmley, The Philadelphia
Knight Ridder/Tribune Business News
Nov. 9, 2005 - The top Harrah's executive in charge of the company's four casinos in Atlantic City resigned from his post Monday.
A Harrah's Entertainment Inc. spokeswoman said yesterday that David Jonas, Harrah's regional president, resigned for "personal reasons." Carlos Tolosa, eastern division president for Harrah's, will serve as interim regional president until the company finds a replacement for Jonas.
Jonas' departure comes at a critical time for Harrah's - and for Atlantic City.
Last summer, Harrah's Entertainment became the world's largest gambling company after acquiring Caesars Entertainment Inc. for $10.4 billion.
The company's four Atlantic City properties - Harrah's, Showboat, Caesars and Bally's - accounted for 40 percent of last year's $4.8 billion in total gambling revenue. Harrah's Entertainment is also poised to become a major player in Pennsylvania, which legalized gambling last year, and is developing a site it co-owns into a racetrack and casino with 2,500 slot machines in Chester, Delaware County.
Jonas has been intimately involved in the company's revamping of its Atlantic City casinos. He was on hand at the grand opening of the House of Blues - a major concert and restaurant venue - at Showboat casino in July, and was overseeing the development of the $175 million Pier at Caesars, a retail, dining and entertainment complex behind Caesars on the Boardwalk that is set to open in spring 2006.
Jonas, a graduate of Widener University, has been with Harrah's Entertainment since 1983. He was vice president of operations at Showboat casino from 1993 to 1998, and he oversaw several of the casino's expansion projects.
In 1999, he became senior vice president and general manager of Harrah's Atlantic City, a position he held until being named regional president of Atlantic City operations for Harrah's Entertainment last May.
"Dave has clearly played an important part in Harrah's growth in Atlantic City," said Michael Pollock, publisher of Gaming Industry Observer, a trade journal that tracks Atlantic City. "He's had enormous success in recent years in integrating Harrah's and Showboat casinos. He was indispensable in that process."
Jonas had no comment, according to his wife, Karen Jonas, reached yesterday at their Medford home.
Jonas' departure also comes at a crucial time for Atlantic City. The East Coast gambling capital has seen significant management turnover as it faces increased competition from surrounding states.
The reshuffling at Harrah's follows the resignation of Mark Brown as head of the three Trump casinos in July, and Dennis Gomes' departure from Tropicana Casino & Resort in May.
Donald J. Trump turned to two former Atlantic City veterans, James Perry and Mark Juliano, to lead his casinos. Gomes' job overseeing Tropicana casinos in Las Vegas and Atlantic City was never filled.
"These guys switch jobs continuously," Larry Klatzkin, managing director of Jefferies & Co., said. "They're like general managers in baseball.
"It does not mean that they are not talented… . All of them had good reasons for leaving," he said.
Pollock agreed: "Historically, in Atlantic City, you can find relatively frequent changes at the top.
"It's not unique to any one individual or to this point of time," he said. "It's the nature of the industry."
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