Harrah’s New Orleans Beginning $325M Expansion

Posted on: October 1, 2020, 12:05h. 

Last updated on: October 1, 2020, 05:15h.

Harrah’s New Orleans is expected to break ground on the property’s $325 million expansion, which is a key component of the casino’s 30-year licensing extension it reached last year with the state.

Harrah's New Orleans casino resort
A rendering of the future Harrah’s New Orleans shows the casino resort will look very different in the coming years. (Image: Harrah’s New Orleans)

Caesars Entertainment, the parent company to the Big Easy casino resort, which is the only gaming venue in the city, announced this week that Louisiana native Samir Mowad is returning to run Harrah’s New Orleans.

Mowad will be the property’s senior vice president and general manager, and returns to his native town after serving in executive capacities at Iowa’s Horseshoe Council Bluffs.

This is nothing short of my dream job,” Mowad said.

He returns to the Big Easy with no easy task ahead of him, as Mowad will help guide the company through its $325 million project.

City Negotiations

When House Bill 544 was signed by Gov. John Bel Edwards (D) in June of 2019, Harrah’s New Orleans became legally obligated to a $325 million expansion in exchange for a 30-year gaming license extension.

Part of the agreement includes Caesars being permitted to build a new 24-story, 340-room hotel tower above the existing casino. It will feature a new restaurant and entertainment space and is to be completed by 2024.

When Harrah’s New Orleans opened in 1999, it was required to be a standalone casino. The goal was to use the casino as a tourism attraction that helped other hotels in the area. The city, which owns the land under Harrah’s, eased that position in 2006 and allowed the property to construct its current hotel, which is on Poydras Street. But the present 450-room hotel is consistently booked solid.

As a result, Harrah’s New Orleans books out tens of thousands of rooms annually at nearby hotels for player comps. That’s cost the casino millions of dollars in lost revenue each year, and Harrah’s is currently in a legal fight regarding whether it must pay taxes on comped or discounted third-party hotel rooms.

Building above the casino has been something Caesars has sought for years. “We want to create something that’s a world-class integrated resort for a world-class city,” Caesars Regional President Dan Real said in 2019. “That building [casino] has not had many changes over 20 years. This is really about being able to compete.”

Sports Betting Potential

Along with the hotel, new restaurants, and meeting facilities, Harrah’s New Orleans will be watching the election results on November 3. Louisiana voters will be asked on Election Day if they wish to legalize sports betting in their parish.

Residents in each of the state’s 64 parishes have the power, with a simple majority, to authorize wagering on collegiate and professional sports. Even if just one parish backs the ballot question, sports betting will be permitted within that parish’s confines.

The Orleans Parish, home to New Orleans, is where the state’s two professional sports teams, the NFL Saints and NBA Pelicans, play their home games.