Credit cards for Harrah's gamblers MBNA to pitch credit cards to Harrah's gamblers

Posted: May 22, 2001

Also in this column:

First Union cuts jobs

PhilEx reduces fees

MBNA chief recovering

Do gamblers borrow more?

Casino operator Harrah's Entertainment Inc. has tapped MBNA America Bank of Wilmington to sell cards to 23 million gamblers who have registered at the company's casinos, restaurants and hotels from Atlantic City to Las Vegas, according to Harrah's spokesman Gary Thompson.

Heavy users win discounts at Harrah's, Rio and Showboat casinos and casino-hotels. Harrah's doesn't generally accept cards as payment for gambling chips - you need cash or a bank line of credit for that - but you can use the card for a cash advance.

Harrah's expects that MBNA will sell a lot more cards than its previous partner, First Tennessee Bank, which sold its card business to MBNA last year.

"MBNA offered the opportunity to have our brand introduced with the largest credit card bank in the world," Thompson said. "It was a good deal for both companies."

Asked whether credit cards for problem gamblers might present the kind of problems free drinks may create for alcoholics, Thompson said Harrah's staff members were educated to spot and assist people who bet beyond their means.

First Union Corp. has eliminated its 320 remaining credit card positions at the former CoreStates National Bank site north of Wilmington, effective June 26.

The workers won't be needed now that First Union has sold its card business to MBNA, which has interviewed some of the workers for possible jobs at its Wilmington and Newark sites, First Union spokeswoman Barbara Nate said.

PhilEx cuts fees

Having proven it could lure more stock-options business by cutting fees and favoring big national operators, the Philadelphia Stock Exchange is trying to do the same for its smaller stock-trading business.

The PhilEx equity floor announced plans last week to waive all customer fees for stock orders routed through its electronic-order system.

Traders say the idea is to persuade the electronic-trading networks that account for a growing share of world stock trading to pick the PhilEx over bigger exchanges, generating more opportunities for Philadelphia traders to pick up a few pennies per trade.

MBNA Corp. chairman Alfred Lerner, 67, is recovering from brain surgery at his home near Cleveland.

The Wilmington credit card giant and the Cleveland Browns professional football team, which Lerner owns, have declined comment on the nature of his condition. Earlier in his career, Lerner had denied rumors he was undergoing treatment for cancer.

Lerner owns one-eighth of MBNA, which he took public while he was chairman of its parent company, the former Maryland National Corp., in 1991. Should Lerner step down, what becomes of his holdings? His son, Randolph, a New York investment banker and sometime art teacher, is also on MBNA's board.

Lerner's business partner, MBNA president Charles M. Cawley, also has family in high positions at the company. Son-in-law Michael G. Rhodes is a member of the company's senior executive group, and Cawley's namesake son, an Atlanta brain surgeon, joined the board of MBNA's European subsidiary last year.

Indeed, the younger Cawley is pictured in the current annual report - not with other directors, but in a section promoting auto racing credit cards. He is identified as "C. Michael Cawley, M.D., Nascar fan."

Joseph N. DiStefano can be reached at 215-854-5957 or jdistefano@phillynews.com.

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