Harrah’s Clears A Hurdle

A Kansas judge issued a temporary order September 5 stating Harrah’s Entertainment can’t use customer information it gathered from a tribal casino it managed to market a proposed state-owned casino. The project’s development wasn’t halted.

Harrah’s was awarded the contract to build and operate a $535 million facility in Mulvane in Sumner County that won’t be open until the fall of 2010.

“We are pleased that the judge’s decision today allows us to move forward with the planning and design for the gaming facility,” Harrah’s spokeswoman Jacqueline Peterson said. “We believe that we have fully complied with our agreements with the Prairie Band and we will continue to do so in the future.”

The Prairie Band Potawatomi Nation filed suit August 18 to stop the project, claiming that Harrah’s violated a non-compete agreement. The casino giant managed one of the tribe’s casinos in Mayetta from 1997 to 2007 when the tribe took over, which is why customer information became an issue.

Shawnee County District Judge David Bruns ordered both parties to participate in private mediation within 30 days to sort out the dispute. If that fails, additional hearings may be held on whether to make the order permanent.

“The evidence strongly suggests that the parties intended for Harrah’s to be prohibited from using this proprietary customer information to solicit or otherwise entice customers located in the state of Kansas for a period of two years following termination of the management agreement,” Bruns wrote.

The non-compete agreement says that Harrah’s isn’t allowed to develop, promote or encourage the expansion of gambling in Kansas outside of the tribe’s business for one year and isn’t allowed to own, operate or manage a casino for two years.

Prairie Band Potawatomi Tribal Council Chairman Steve Ortiz said in a statement on the tribe’s Web site, “The Nation is pleased with today’s ruling and intends to fully comply with the Court’s order.”

The proposed casino facility, which will include a 175-room hotel with five restaurants, an amphitheatre, and convention and conference venues, still needs approval from the Kansas Racing and Gaming Commission following a background check by the state.