Harrah’s Entertainment Inc. (HET) made its contribution toward helping New Orleans bring back the tourists with the opening last week of its 450-room hotel as an anchor to the Fulton Street pedestrian mall.
The café-lined strip was built to revitalize the struggling tourism industry by easily linking the French Quarter to the Convention Center. And the hotel will be a major attraction for what Harrah’s hopes will be upscale gamblers.
The company expects the 27-story hotel to cater to the high-end gamblers who have traveled to similar properties in Las Vegas and Atlantic City.
One gaming analyst was quoted as saying the hotel opening "couldn’t come at a better time. It’s got nothing but upside for the whole city and the state of Louisiana."
Locals closely aligned with the French Quarter businesses are concerned. They feel the hotel and the Fulton Street pedestrian mall will compete with the more established businesses that have struggled to regain their positions lost to Hurricane Katrina.
For Harrah’s, the hotel addition brings them a long way from the early years as the state’s only land-based casino. Originally, the company was barred from building a hotel or adding a restaurant for fear the property would negatively impact the surrounding hostelry.
That inability to cater to tourists with these amenities prevented Harrah’s from generating enough revenue to avoid bankruptcy. In fact, a pair of bankruptcies. Fortunately, the company was able to negotiate a new deal in 2005 that resulted in the current construction. Also, fortunate was the fact that Harrah’s New Orleans Casino was able to avoid major damage from the hurricane that devastated the city.
Now, with successful marketing that will be directed to favorable customers through the company’s Total Rewards program, Harrah’s hopes to capitalize on a "strong upside potential."