Statewide: Western region, October 2015
Caesars Entertainment is making a $100 million wager that a second Harrah’s casino in western North Carolina will lure in gamblers from new markets. The new Harrah’s Cherokee Valley River Casino & Hotel opened in late September outside Murphy, in Cherokee County. That’s about an hour southwest of the well-known Harrah’s Cherokee Casino Resort in the town of Cherokee, in Jackson County. Both projects are owned by the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians and managed by Las Vegas-based Caesars. But they have different business models, and economic-development leaders and company officials say the new casino should draw in a different client base.
The older casino resort boasts a 1,100-room hotel, conference center and golf course plus a 150,000-square-foot gaming floor. “This is the place they come to when they want to stay a couple days,” says Leeann Bridges, regional vice president of marketing for Harrah’s. The new project is being billed as more of a day-trip destination. It’s one-third the size, with about 300 hotel rooms and 50,000 square feet of gaming space including 70 game tables and 1,050 slot machines. But the key difference is location: The new casino is about a two-hour drive from Atlanta, or an hour closer than Harrah’s Cherokee site. While there will be some cannibalization of business, Bridges says there is enough demand for the existing resort: Each year, Harrah’s denies about 120,000 room requests from its biggest spenders — customers who make frequent visits and spend hours gambling at blackjack tables or playing the slots. “We wouldn’t have undertaken the project if we didn’t think the demand was there,” Bridges says.
The new casino is expected to create 800 to 900 jobs, says Josh Carpenter, economic development director for Cherokee County. The county’s unemployment rate is about 7%, a percentage point higher than the statewide rate. His office is projecting 1 million casino visitors each year, compared with more than 3 million annual visitors at the larger Cherokee resort.
CONNELLY SPRINGS — SpartaCraft will add 20 jobs for a total of 65 employees at its local manufacturing plant, which produces wooden display cases for military flags and other memorabilia. Average annual wage for the new jobs will be $31,499, less than Burke County’s $37,010. The $411,903 expansion was aided by a $200,000 state building-reuse grant.
CLYDE — Asheville-based Mission Health opened a $7 million, 30,000- square-foot primary care medical office. The center will employ about 30 people and provide services such as wound care, orthopedics and physical therapy.
ANDREWS — TEAM Industries will add nine jobs at its local machining plant as part of a $576,813 expansion. The Bagley, Minn.-based company makes gears for the aerospace and marine industries and employs 135 here. The new jobs will pay an average annual wage of $29,046, compared with Cherokee County’s $35,421.