The Harrah’s Cherokee Valley River Casino & Hotel is approaching completion of a significant expansion that may make it the most attractive casino gaming destination in its region.
Harrah’s Cherokee Valley River Casino, owned by the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians (EBCI), is tucked away into the southwestern corner of the state in Murphy, a convenient drive from several major cities in four states.
While one of the most remote North Carolina casinos, Cherokee Valley River is a two-and-a-half-hour drive from Atlanta, a one-hour-and-45-minute drive from Chattanooga, Tennessee, a two-hour drive from Greenville, South Carolina and a two-hour drive from Asheville.
Harrah’s broke ground on the casino expansion project last October for what will be a $275 million investment to improve the resort and gaming facility. The expansion will add 25,000 square-feet of gaming space, 400 slot machines, as well as about a dozen table games. It is scheduled for completion by the end of 2024.
Murphy, with a population under 2,000 according to the 2020 U.S. Census, is located in the western edge of North Carolina. It is the county seat of Cherokee County and is situated between the juncture of the Hiwassee and Valley rivers, in the foothills near the Snowbird Mountains.
World Series of Poker Room is Coming
A central piece of the renovated Harrah’s Cherokee Valley River Casino will be a World Series of Poker room. That will bring the Cherokee Valley River casino on par with the EBCI’s other NC casino, Harrah’s Cherokee Casino Resort in Cherokee.
Harrah’s Cherokee Casino features 32 WSOP tables and weekly tournaments for Texas Hold ‘Em and other games. Last year, Harrah’s Cherokee hosted three WSOP-sanctioned events and it has three more on the schedule for this year.
The WSOP attracts hundreds of thousands of players nationwide, competing for millions of dollars in prizes. The popular event, which has both a real-world casino tournament and an online tourney, attracts players of all levels of experience and skill.
The hope is that Cherokee Valley River will become a second North Carolina tour stop on the WSOP circuit.
Resort Will Nearly Double Rooms and Add Rooftop Restaurant
While completion is expected by the end of 2024, some areas, such as new gaming space, will be phased into use before the grand opening, according to Harrah’s officials.
The casino, which opened in 2015 at a reported cost of $110 million, is open during its renovation: no gaming tables or slots have been impacted by the construction work. While the casino is owned by the EBCI, it is operated by Caesars Entertainment. The Harrah’s Cherokee Casino Resort in Cherokee, NC, is also owned and operated by the same entities.
A major addition to Harrah’s Cherokee Valley River will be a second hotel tower with a 12,000 square-foot restaurant on the top floor with indoor and terrace seating. The resort side is getting 296 additional hotel rooms, which roughly doubles the occupancy at Harrah’s Cherokee Valley River.
The renovation will also add an indoor pool and a state-of-the-art fitness center. The facility already has a bowling alley and arcade room.
“It’s a well-rounded experience,” Brian Saunooke, regional vice president of marketing for Harrah’s Cherokee Casinos, said in an interview with WSPA 7 News earlier this week.
Saunooke also mentioned the new jobs the expansion will add to the region. “Harrah’s Cherokee casinos really does pride itself on being an economic engine of western North Carolina,” he told WSPA 7 News. According to Saunooke, 2,500 construction jobs were created, and 100 positions will be added at the casino and resort.
If findings from a July NCSharp survey that found that 45% of respondents approve of casino expansion, the new additions to Harrah’s Cherokee Valley River will be a welcome addition to the casino gaming landscape of the Tar Heel State.
Image Credit: John Locher / AP