Hurricane Florence Wreaks Havoc on Carolinas, But Harrah’s Cherokee Resorts, Casino Boats Spared

Posted on: September 17, 2018, 09:30h. 

Last updated on: September 17, 2018, 09:44h.

Hurricane Florence, now downgraded to a tropical depression, is responsible for the deaths of at least 18 people in the Carolinas.

Hurricane Florence Carolina casinos
Hurricane Florence devastated coastal regions of the Carolinas. (Image: Jonathan Drake/Reuters/

The deadly storm has finally moved north, as Carolinians begin the painful and costly recovery process. Along with the lives lost, some 575,000 homes remain without power. Rivers and lakes continue to flood, roads are closed, and multiple dams are in grave danger of being breached.

Florence is officially the ninth wettest tropical cyclone to hit the contiguous United States in history. But the gaming industry was largely sparred by the weather event.

Traditionally conservative states, the Carolinas have no commercial casinos. However, North Carolina is home to two tribal casinos, Harrah’s Cherokee and sister property Harrah’s Cherokee Valley. Both facilities are owned by the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians and operated by Caesars Entertainment.

South Carolina is home to two casino cruise ships, which dock in Little River near Myrtle Beach. The vessels are named Big M Casino Cruise I and II.

Concert Canned, Ships Sail

With Myrtle Beach in Florence’s direct path as the hurricane approached the coast, owners of the Big M ships cancelled all cruises effective September 11, three days before the storm made landfall. The vessels, which offer table games and more than 400 slot machines, were transported to nearby inland Bucksport Marina on the Waccamaw River to ride out Florence.

In a Facebook post this week, the Big M ships seem to be unscathed. However, owners say they aren’t sure when the casino cruises might resume.

Harrah’s Cherokee and Cherokee Valley resort casinos are some 200 miles from the Atlantic Ocean in the most western part of North Carolina. Add in the fact that the casinos are at elevations of nearly 2,000 feet above sea level, and the two gaming venues stood at little risk of being severely impacted by Hurricane Florence.

Both Harrah’s properties remained in operation throughout last week with minimal interruption. The only schedule change came at Harrah’s Cherokee Casino Resort, which cancelled a concert from Aaron Lewis that was to take place on September 14.

No specific reason was provided, prompting online commenters to inquire. “Why is the show cancelled with a 20 percent chance of rain?” asked one Facebook user.

Atlantic City Casino Steps Up

With millions of people evacuating to safer ground, one casino resort in Atlantic City offered up its rooms free of charge for those displaced. However, just hours after making the announcement, Ocean Resort Casino, the reimagined Revel that opened in June, explained, “Due to the overwhelming response, we are now sold out through Saturday 9/15. We will be able to offer rooms Sunday 9/16 through Thursday 9/20.”

To take advantage of the free room offer, guests must show proof of residency that they’re arriving in Atlantic City from an area directly impacted by Florence.

The two Harrah’s Cherokee casinos, which are much closer to the evacuation areas than New Jersey’s beachfront gambling town more than 600 miles north, didn’t comment on whether they were providing free or discounted lodging to evacuees.

With 1,108 rooms, Harrah’s Cherokee is the largest hotel in North Carolina. Cherokee Valley has 300 rooms.

It’s been a busy hurricane season already, as casinos in Macau, the world’s richest gambling hub, were forced to close for 33 hours due to a typhoon over the weekend. They have since reopened, but not after an incurred gross gambling revenue loss of an estimated $185.6 million.