Harrah's Names Tech Chiefs, Sans CIO - InformationWeek

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3/27/2009
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Harrah's Names Tech Chiefs, Sans CIO

Harrah's Entertainment, the world's largest casino company and a leading tech innovator, has promoted two execs to succeed Tim Stanley, the company's former CIO and senior VP of gaming and innovation. Stanley, InformationWeek's 2007 Chief of the Year, resigned from Harrah's effective Jan. 31, c

Harrah's Entertainment, the world's largest casino company and a leading tech innovator, has promoted two execs to succeed Tim Stanley, the company's former CIO and senior VP of gaming and innovation. Stanley, InformationWeek's 2007 Chief of the Year, resigned from Harrah's effective Jan. 31, citing personal reasons.Katrina Lane, formerly VP of channel marketing, now heads the company's 52-casino gaming operations, its dozen-person innovation team, as well as application development and other customer-facing IT as senior VP and CTO. John Baker, promoted to senior VP of enterprise effectiveness, oversees the company's IT infrastructure. Both execs report to Harrah's CEO Gary Loveman. Harrah's has no plans to name a CIO.

Lane's path to CTO isn't a traditional one. She holds a Ph.D. in experimental physics from Cornell University, and her work experience is mostly in data-driven marketing. She spent seven years as a McKinsey consultant, where she specialized in CRM and analytics for retail banking, credit, and other consumer-focused clients. As a marketing VP, among the projects Lane co-owned with the Harrah's IT organization was integration of the Harrah's and Caesars Web sites and CRM systems following the companies' merger in 2005. She continues to oversee Harrahs.com.

Lane, who's been on the job for only a few weeks, declined to delve into specific initiatives of her innovation team, nor would she discuss whether any projects had been scaled back amid the recession. Two of many tech-driven areas where Harrah's has experimented are in embedding RFID in chips to track and rate customers' play, and deploying Microsoft's Surface tabletop computers in lounges and bars.

Casino gaming was once considered recession-proof, or at least recession-resistant, but the industry is struggling. In its fourth quarter ended Dec. 31, Harrah's revenue declined 13% from the year-earlier quarter to $2.28 billion. The company posted a loss of $4.78 billion in the quarter, owing to a one-time charge of $5.49 billion to write down the value of goodwill and other intangible assets.

Harrah's also carries a hefty debt burden from going private in a $30.7 billion deal last year. Upon Stanley's departure in January, sources suggested that the company's aggressive tech strategy was being reined in amid the economic slowdown. Lane, while not commenting on any tech projects specifically, said "everyone has to be careful these days to keep costs aligned with revenue."

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