Harrah's Cherokee —
like its young neighbor Harrah's Valley River in Murphy, N.C.
— is owned by the Eastern Band of Cherokee Tribal Council and managed and operated by Harrah's.
At just under a three-hour scenic drive, it is no longer the closest gambling for those in metro Atlanta — Valley River clocks in at just over two hours — but it is the most convenient full-service resort.
While Georgia stubbornly
refuses to budge to allow gaming in the state
, those who enjoy the entertainment provided by slots, poker, video poker, blackjack and other casino games continue to funnel revenue into North Carolina.
Harrah’s has asserted itself in the market, with prominent advertising on billboards and in Mercedes-Benz Stadium, as well as sponsorships with the Atlanta Braves and Georgia Swarm.
“Atlanta has been our No. 1 market since we opened the doors and it continues to be — for both properties,” Bridges said. “The majority of our (high-end) Seven Stars and Diamond players come from Atlanta and North Georgia. We want to own Atlanta. I think we’ll see gaming in Atlanta before I retire, but we want to stake our claim now.”
Out-of-town business is usually so brisk that snagging a room at Harrah’s Cherokee — especially on the weekends — requires advance planning. Because of the continued demand, another hotel tower with about 600-800 rooms, as well as an additional 100,000 square feet of convention space, is planned (Bridges hopes for “shovel in ground” by March).
Even Harrah’s Cherokee Valley River, which celebrated its second anniversary in September, is already in expansion mode. A much-needed sit-down restaurant is under construction, along with its own UltraStar facility, which will offer 12 bowling lanes, a bar/lounge and a small entertainment space for live performances.
But when reflecting on the evolution of Harrah’s Cherokee the past two decades, Bridges, who has been with the company since the beginning, chuckles as she says the property has seemingly always been under expansion and construction.
“If we look at the original footprint of Harrah’s Cherokee, we’ve more than doubled the size with the UltraStar center,” she said. “We ask ourselves sometimes, when do we get to the point when we expand as far as we can go? But we have big demand for the casino games and the entertainment.”
If you go
<span style="color: rgb(0, 0, 0);">Harrah</span>'<span style="color: rgb(0, 0, 0);">s</span>
<span style="color: rgb(0, 0, 0);">Cherokee</span> Hotel and Casino, 777 Casino Drive, <span style="color: rgb(0, 0, 0);">Cherokee</span>
, N.C. 828-497-7777, http://www.harrahscherokee.com. Directions from metro Atlanta: Take I-85 North to I-985 until you run into U.<span style="color: rgb(0, 0, 0);">S</span>. 441 North. Once you reach Dillsboro, N.C., take U.<span style="color: rgb(0, 0, 0);">S</span>. 74 West and follow signs to <span style="color: rgb(0, 0, 0);">Cherokee</span> (Exit 74). Take U.<span style="color: rgb(0, 0, 0);">S</span>. 441 North to <span style="color: #000000;">Cherokee</span> for about 4 miles and take a right at the first traffic light. <span style="color: #000000;">Harrah</span>'<span style="color: #000000;">s</span>
<span style="color: #000000;">Cherokee</span> Casino is at the next intersection, about 1 mile. Approximate drive time from metro Atlanta: 2 1/2 to 3 hours.
Harrah's Cherokee Valley River Casino & Hotel, 777 Casino Parkway, Murphy, N.C. 828-656-1679,
I-75 north to I-575 north to Ga. 60 north. Take Ga./N.C. 60 north to U.S. 64/U.S. 74 east. Turn right on Casino Parkway, cross the new bridge and follow the curved hill.