Bigger, better for HET

Feb 14, 2006 5:49 AM

Bigger is better seems to be the theme that Harrah’s Entertainment Inc. (HET) is following as far as two of its gaming properties is concerned.

The company announced last week that it has been given the green light by the Cherokee Tribal Council to come up with $254 million to pay for an expansion project at the tribe’s North Carolina casino.

The expansion, expected to create about 1,200 new jobs, will involve a new spa, a 1,000-car parking deck as well as a 3,000-seat showroom. Currently, the casino employs 1,770 people.

What could enhance the expansion plans would be approval by Gov. Mike Easley to the tribe’s request that it be permitted to install blackjack, poker and other table games in its casino. Discussions for the table games have been going on since last April.

The casino is located about 50 miles from Knoxville, Tenn., and generates about $155 million in revenue annually for the tribal members.

In another part of the country, Indiana to be exact, Harrah’s is looking to expand its Horseshoe Casino, the state’s largest gaming producer.

A project that will locate a riverboat next to the company’s existing casino near the Hammond, Ind., Yacht Club is expected to cost hundreds of millions of dollars. If the necessary approvals are received in short order, the company believes the new boat could be operating within two years.

Word of the Horseshoe project comes just a week after Blue Chip Casino, about 40 miles to the east in Michigan City, opened a new $170 million riverboat that is the largest casino boat registered by the U.S. Coast Guard.

The Horseshoe riverboat operates just across the Indiana/Illinois state line from Chicago.