Sunday, July 26, 2009

We're all Caesars

Have you ever noticed how the Caesars in Caesars Palace has no apostrophe in it?

(Waxing nostalgic:) It was a detail that escaped us way back in 1979 at Lake Tahoe.

Back then, Harrah's and Caesars were rivals. Back then, there was a Harrah, Bill, and he owned the poshest hotel-casino at Tahoe's south shore. Across the street, Highway 50, was another rival, Harvey's Wagon Wheel, owned by Harvey Gross. The names of Harrah's and Harvey's casinos each had an "apostrophe s" in them, Bill and Harvey owned them back then.

Along comes Halloween night of 1979. At the stroke of midnight, Caesars, without an apostrophe, would take over the Park Tahoe hotel-casino, a couple doors down from Harrah's and across from the fourth major club, Sahara Tahoe. We were there to witness the changeover as a reporter for what was then the Tahoe Daily Tribune. Gaming pretty much never stops and we chronicled how one hand at a blackjack table was the last dealt under the Park Tahoe's auspices, a tray of chips was quickly subbed and the very next hand was dealt under Caesars ownership. (Caesars lost, but the player's streak only lasted three hands.) And so it went table by table, watched by officials from Del Webb, which operated Park Tahoe's casino, Caesars, and Park Cattle Company, owner of the land on which the hotel-casino sat.

The Tribune then was a 5-day, afternoon daily. So the Nov. 1 edition carried our front-page story of the changeover under the headline, "Caesar's comes to Tahoe."

A couple days later comes the letter from the Caesars PR department, thanking us for the story but pointing out the ghastly error of the apostrophe. There is no apostrophe, the PR folks stress, because all their customers are Caesars, to be treated and honored like rulers of their own gaming empire (the fate of the namesake Roman emperor notwithstanding).

(Getting to the point:) Caesars no longer operates at Tahoe, it's part of the same company that also includes Harrah's and Harveys (no longer boasting an apostrophe in its logo) and seven other familiar hotel-casino brands. The Tahoe Daily Tribune is no longer daily. We no longer work for any newspaper, but we publish stories at Jilted Journalists and blog for free here.

In looking at the parallel upheavals in the newspaper and book-publishing industries, we can see more parallels in the way changing technology, industry consolidation, a deep recession and changing customer habits conspire against traditional casino operations just as they do the news and book industries and so many other businesses.

In the news and book publishing worlds, more readers are rising to be Caesars.

They can choose their experiences, they can publish their own stories from Tweets to treatises more inexpensively than ever before, and in doing so they build their own personal brands of themselves.

What can we deal them?
Place your bets, ladies and gentlemen.

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