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Perhaps it's a sign that casino gambling has reached mass acceptance when an ex-IBM executive and son of a Southern Baptist minister becomes a driving force in creating one of the largest and best-known names in gaming entertainment.

John M. Boushy, 39, is senior VP-information technology and corporate marketing for Promus Cos., and the man responsible for bringing brand marketing to casino gaming and Harrah's.

His push for research tracking the country's growing acceptance of gaming helped propel Harrah's rapid expansion, leaving competitors in the dust. Harrah's now has 12 casinos open and another four planned for 1994.

The casinos, accounting for more than 80% of company revenues, brought in $1.02 billion in revenue in 1993, up 14% from the previous year.

Harrah's plans to make its name synonymous with casino gaming entertainment by spending an estimated $18 million on advertising in 1994, up from $12 million in 1993. New TV, radio, print and outdoor advertising, themed "A great time every time," breaks in July from Trahan, Burden & Charles, Baltimore.

"We want to be the premier name in casino entertainment," Mr. Boushy says.

Harrah's Gold Card helps the company track 5 million customers and reward them with complimentary meals, rooms, show tickets and gift-shop discounts. It tracks customer attitudes and preferences with a monthly survey of 10,000 households.

Mr. Boushy got into the casino business in 1979, when he was working for IBM and his client-Harrah's-offered him a job as data processing manager.

"I thought I could personally make a difference in this industry and use information as a strategic weapon," he says.

He quickly rose through the ranks at Promus, landing his current job in July 1993.

"I find the casino business to be incredibly intriguing," says the father of six. "It's a 24-hour a day operation. It never goes to sleep. It's like a city within itself."

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