Harrah's New Orleans
|Harrah's New Orleans|
|Address||8 Canal Street
New Orleans, LA 70130
|Opening date||October 30, 1999|
|Number of rooms||450|
|Total gaming space||115,000 sq ft (10,700 m2)|
|Notable restaurants||The Besh Steakhouse|
|Renovated in||2005, 2006|
|Website||Harrah's New Orleans|
Harrah's New Orleans is a casino located in New Orleans, Louisiana near the foot of Canal Street a block away from the Mississippi River. It is a 115,000 sq ft (10,700 m2) casino with approximately 2,100 slot machines, over 90 table games and a poker room. There are several places to eat ranging from buffet style to fine dining. Since its opening in 1999 Harrah's has been renting nearby hotel rooms to accommodate its guests; currently, the newly renovated 202-room Wyndham Riverfront Hotel is providing such accommodations. In order to avoid leasing rooms, the casino opened its own 27-story hotel tower with 450 rooms across the street from the casino on September 21, 2006 just days ahead of the New Orleans Saints return to the Louisiana Superdome. It is the only land-based private casino with table games in the state by Louisiana law (there are other casinos in the state with their gambling facilities on floating boats and horse racing racinos with slot machines). It is referred to in state statute as "the official gaming establishment", see Chp.10, Title 4 of Louisiana Revised Statutes.
The location of the casino was most recently previously the site of the Rivergate Convention Center, demolished in 1995. A short tunnel built as part of the canceled Vieux Carré Riverfront Expressway is used for valet parking and for an entrance passing underneath Poydras Street.
The casino is the brainchild of Christopher Hemmeter, a hotel developer in the Hawaiian Islands who returned to the mainland in 1991 when he began to develop casino gaming projects including the nearby River City Casino. His biggest project was a proposed $1 billion casino in New Orleans. Billed at the time as "the world's largest casino". The original design resembled Monte Carlo's 1861 casino, intending to evoke the New Orleans 1885 Cotton Exposition and Chicago's 1893 World Columbia Exposition. The developers estimated the casino would attract one million additional visitors to the city and would generate annual revenues of as much as $780 million, estimates that were based in part on the proven success of dockside gaming in the Mississippi Gulf Coast area.
In 1993 a partnership of Hemmeter and Caesars World obtained the lease on the Rivergate property, which by law was the only place the land-based casino could be built in Louisiana, beating out a rival bid by Harrah's. In August, 1993, however, the State Casino Board awarded the state's sole casino license to Harrah's and not the Hemmeter-Caesar's partnership. The impasse of one company owning the only license and another owning the only lease was resolved when the two entities formed a joint venture under pressure from then-Governor, Edwin Edwards. The new entity, known as "Harrah's Jazz" established a temporary casino in the Municipal Auditorium in order to establish a cash flow while the main facility was under construction at the Rivergate. The temporary facility opened in May, 1995 and a week later was closed due to a flood. The poor location of the site resulted in the actual gaming take falling 60% below projections at only $13.1 million per month. Equally concerning was the fact that 60% of gamers at the temporary facility were locals and not out-of-town tourists, undercutting the economic benefit backers hoped gaming to provide to the tourist industry.
Harrah's Jazz halted construction on the permanent facility at 3 AM the day before Thanksgiving, 1995 and laid off 1,600 construction workers, 2,500 casino employees, and filed for bankruptcy. Later, the project was taken over by Harrah's who completed (albeit scaled-back with only the first floor in use to this day) and opened in late October 1999 Harrah's New Orleans Casino on the site of Hemmeter's project.
- McKinney, Louise (2006). New Orleans: a cultural history. Oxford University Press. pp. 165–166. ISBN 978-0-19-530135-9.
- Myerson, Allen R. (2 June 1996). "A Big Casino Wager That Hasn't Paid Off". The New York Times. Retrieved 2 February 2010.
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