Harrah’s Cherokee Casinos Contribute $200+ Million To North Carolina In 2023

As 2023 wraps up, the numbers are in: Harrah’s Cherokee Casinos remain a driving force in the North Carolina economy.

Contributing more than $200 million to their communities, both the Harrah’s Cherokee Casino Resort and Harrah’s Cherokee Valley River Casino & Hotel helped the area in a number of ways.

Here’s a closer look at the North Carolina casino figures for both Harrah’s properties in 2023.

How Harrah’s Cherokee property impacts North Carolina’s economy

The two Harrah’s Cherokee casinos contributed more than $200 million to their North Carolina communities. Harrah’s Cherokee Casino Resort and Harrah’s Cherokee Valley River Casino & Hotel combined for $206,967,215 in societal contributions this year.

That’s a great mark, considering the societal contribution per dollar of revenue for these casinos surpasses the average for North Carolina’s commercial companies.

The two casinos made more than $177 million in payments to vendors for their goods and services this year, too. Harrah’s Cherokee properties stressed the importance of using local vendors as an added effort to pump money back into the North Carolina economy.

Additionally, Harrah’s Cherokee Casinos donated more than $1 million to North Carolina non-profit organizations. These donations came from events and contributions from employees. Organizations receiving contributions included WNC Communities, MANNA Cherokee Indian Hospital Foundation and NC Senior Games.

Good sign, considering tribal gaming revenue is down this year

How well the Harrah’s Cherokee properties boosted the North Carolina economy is a great sign, considering tribal gaming as a whole appears to be down in 2023.

We don’t have exact revenue data, but based off recent per capita distribution figures of the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians (EBCI), there is a dip in revenue compared to years past. There are a different number of shareholders at each distribution time, so the per capita numbers aren’t a perfect indicator of revenue. But they paint a fairly accurate picture.

June and December’s per capita distribution payments are down 8.6% from 2022. December, specifically, was down 14.1%. A number of factors could play into this, such as inflation and worries of a recession. But even so, the economic impact figures leave plenty of room for optimism heading into 2024.

More than 4.2 million visitors headed to Harrah’s Cherokee’s two casino locations this year. And in turn, those visitors contributed to the local economies with hotels, restaurants and shops.

Employment at both Harrah’s Cherokee locations

Not including benefits, the casinos distributed $129,334,808 in salary and wages to their employees this year. Additionally, all Harrah’s Cherokee casino employees, roughly 4,000 employees across both properties, have access to a tuition and certification reimbursement program. It’s a huge help on top of the casinos offering more than North Carolina’s minimum wage.

Harrah’s Cherokee Valley River Casino and Hotel is located in Cherokee County. There, the largest employers are among the likes of Erlanger Western Carolina Hospital, the Cherokee County Board of Education, Cherokee County and Walmart. It’s a mix of public and private-sector employers, but each range from 250 to 499 employees. The casino is the main attraction.

Harrah’s Cherokee Casino Resort is located in Jackson County. The biggest employer in that county is Western Carolina University, which employs more than 1,000 people. Other notable employers in the area include Jackson County, Jackson County Public Schools, Walmart and Southwestern Community College, each employing between 250-499 people.

How some numbers compare to 2022

Harrah’s Cherokee Casinos distributed less in salary and wages to their employees this year than in 2022. That year, the total came out to $187.2 million.

However, the casinos’ payments to vendors in 2023 were higher by more than $17 million compared to last year. In 2022, that number sat at $160 million. 2023’s vendor payments were higher than in 2021, too.

2024’s numbers could be on the rise thanks to expansion

Harrah’s Cherokee Valley River Casino & Hotel is putting $275 million into a major expansion plan.

The expansion includes roughly 25,000 square feet of new gaming floor space. This project would elevate the location to the largest casino in North Carolina when complete. Casino patrons will find 300 more sot machines and eight more table games. There will be a new poker room, too, which will host a World Series Of Poker event.

Developers believe construction will be complete in the first half of 2024. When complete, this will certainly be a driving force in bringing additional customers to the area. With almost 300 more hotel rooms, a new state-of-the-art fitness center, a sull-service spa, salon and wine cellar, there is something for everyone.

Just like in any state, when a new casino or new expansion is complete, it’s a big factor in driving tourism. Patrons, whether from out of state or within, will want to check out the shiny new facility in town. It’s a great move by the casino, and one that will certainly help bump the area’s economy this coming year.

The company will employ up to 900 construction workers and support staff during the process. Additionally, Caesars Entertainment and the EBCI project that the expansion will add $35 million to the local economy.

About North Carolina’s Harrah’s casinos

Harrah’s Cherokee Casino Resort opened in 1997 and has been a staple ever since. The location features a hotel, a Caesars retail sportsbook and a number of restaurants. Casino patrons can choose from more than 3,000 slots and 160 table games. The casino recently opened a smoking room–the first such room on the premises in almost four years.

Harrah’s Cherokee Valley River Casino and Hotel is the newer of the two, having opened its doors in 2015. Much like the other location, there is a hotel, a Caessars sportsbook, table games, slots and multiple dining options.

About the Author

Adam Hensley

Adam Hensley's byline has appeared in the Associated Press, Sports Illustrated and sites within the USA Today Network. Hensley graduated from the University of Iowa in 2019 and spent his college career working as an editor and reporter for the Daily Iowan’s sports department.