Harrah's to rebrand as Caesars New Orleans as casino-hotel starts $325M upgrade; see new renderings

Tuesday 8th December 2020

Harrah's New Orleans is being rebranded as Caesars New Orleans as part of a $325 million renovation project that will add a new 340-room hotel tower and entrance way by 2024.

Harrah's parent company, Caesars Entertainment, said Tuesday that as well as the hotel tower, the casino will get a new "valet porte cochère" at the existing entrance at the intersection of Canal Street and Convention Center Boulevard. There will also be new food and hospitality offerings in the existing casino building and some unspecified development of the currently unoccupied second-floor area of the casino. Caesars has previously said it wants to be able to offer other entertainment options apart from gambling.

The Las Vegas-based parent company said detailed plans for the renovation, which was approved last year as part of the Louisiana legislature's extension of Caesars' license to operate the casino through 2054, were being presented to the New Orleans Building Corporation on Tuesday as part of the approval process.

The Caesars project gets underway as the new Four Seasons Hotel and Residents, directly across the street on the Mississippi River end of Canal Street, is in the final months before an expected spring completion of its $530 million renovation project to convert the old World Trade Center into an upscale hotel and condominium complex.

What the Four Seasons' opening means to New Orleans: a key milestone in its recovery

Caesars said their project will create 600 construction jobs and the casino group has committed to adding 500 new full-time jobs from 2024 when their renewed 30-year license commences.

"We are excited that this expansion will mean hundreds of construction jobs during the project and hundreds more in sustainable and new jobs post-construction," Mayor LaToya Cantrell was quoted saying in Caesars' statement announcing the start of the project.

As part of its case to win approval for its license extension last year, Caesars had argued that it needed to add the new 340-room tower to its existing 450-room hotel because of the expense the casino incurred paying for complementary rooms for its high-spending patrons at other city hotels each year because of lack of room availability.

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Part of Caesars' pledge on the license extension deal was that it would continue to employ at least 2,400 people and add 500 staff after the hotel was built. It also committed to pay for various state and city infrastructure projects, including $19.5 million over three years to New Orleans.

Still, Caesars is one of the biggest beneficiaries of a decision by the Orleans Parish Assessor to cut property valuations for 2021 -- and thus cut property taxes -- for businesses in the area because of the unprecedented effects of the coronavirus pandemic this year. Hotels saw the highest valuation cuts, at about 58%.

New Orleans casinos post 31.2% drop in revenue during September

Samir Mowad, the New Orleans native who took over as General Manager of Harrah's in September, said there will be further announcements in coming months about other features of the upgrade, pending approval by the Louisiana Gaming Board and and City planning authorities. ""What was shared today is only the beginning of a transformation that will bring new energy, excitement, and fun to New Orleans," he said.

Caesars became the largest gambling group in the country in July when it was taken over by Eldorado Resorts, which retained the name of the more familiar acquisition target. The $17.3 billion takeover process took a year and included an order by federal regulators that the combined group sell several casinos, including the Eldorado Casino Resort in Shreveport.

In addition to Harrah's New Orleans, the only land-based casino in Louisiana, Caesars now owns four floating casinos: the Belle of Baton Rouge, Isle of Capri Casino Hotel in Lake Charles, Harrah's Louisiana Downs in Bossier City and Horseshoe Bossier City.

Gambling has been among the industries hardest hit by the pandemic, with casinos and related hotels furloughing or laying off thousands of workers. Caesars Louisiana has issued Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification notices for two of its Louisiana operations, Harrah's Louisiana Downs and Horseshoe Bossier City, warning that almost 1,200 furloughed workers might be permanently laid off.

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