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Harrah's Tunica Closing

Last edit: level42 on Wednesday, 26th March 2014 6:06 pm
Last response by level42 27th August 8:36am

It appears to be confirmed that Harrah's Tunica will close. I was told last year by an employee that the hotels would likely close by the end of the year, but the casino was going to stay open. The property has been flooded several times, and I'd bet it needs structural work or mold removal. Also lost in the shuffle is the news that Fitzgerald's Tunica was sold to Full House Resorts.

I have stayed at Harrah's Tunica at least 3 times a year for the past few years. It is a huge property with several hotels and a golf course. The casino is nothing's kinda bland. The hotels were actually pretty decent though and could usually be had for less than $40/night during the week. The biggest killer for this property is that it is located so far away from everything else. It's at least a 10 minute car ride from what I'd call "Casino Center"...where Gold Strike, Horseshoe, Roadhouse and Bally's are located. They used to operate a shuttle that ran late between Harrah's and Casino Center, but last time I was there the shuttle stopped at 11pm, stranding me at The Horseshoe. After calling Harrah's and practically begging for them to send a shuttle at 12:30am, they checked my account and said they would send someone over to get me...only because I had Platinum status with Total Rewards. Took them an hour to arrive and the driver was very grumpy about making the late nite trip. They had very obviously ceased any maintenance on the property about a year ago...many slot machines on the floor were out of order, the lobbies of the hotels were not clean, the elevators were worse...and the grounds were starting to look rough. That being said, the casino always seemed to have a crowd...especially on weekends.

While I have no real sentimental attachment to the property, I hate to see them just close it up. I was booked there in July, but I just changed my reservation to Gold Strike...I'm just not really in a mood to give any of my dollars away to Caesars entertainment these days.

@Vespajet made a guess on Effbook that Golden Nugget might end up with it. I'd love to see this happen...they have done an amazing job with their Biloxi property. Of all the non-Vegas gaming markets besides Atlantic City, Tunica has always felt the most "Vegasy" to Golden Nugget would be a natural fit.

I might plan a trip to get over there one more time and do some photographing before it closes.


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 wpsteel66 responded on Wednesday, 26th March 2014

Wow! Sad news, especially for the employees.

I just read in the Biloxi paper that operations will cease June 2 and 1300 people will losse their jobs. But CET did say they are not leaving MS but investing in their Biloxi and 2 other Tunica sites.

I agree with Level42 that Harrahs is away from everything! I have not been to this place in well over 6 years. We stayed one weekend and the best things were the pool and workout center. But all the restaurants and bars were across the street And had to ride the shuttle bus. U could walk but would take some time. They claimed this was the largest casino between Vegas and AC, and very well could be due to the size. But as mentioned, nothing really attracted me to this place. We always stay and prefer either Gold Strike or Horseshoe.

I would like to see Golden Nugget or someone purchase this property and give more attention to it than CET.

So now this makes the Harrahs name have a history at three different locations in Tunica and now will leave. Their original place was next to Sam's Town that turned into Isle of Capri, then Isle left and Sam took over and had Sam's east hotel. Harrahs moved to the current location of Resorts, but after Harrahs bought Caesars, MS Gaming Board required them to sell some of their sites since they owned 5 of 9 casinos in Tunica. So they sold the current Ballys and Resorts.

 wpsteel66 responded on Thursday, 27th March 2014

Interesting story in the Jackson paper. They said Tunica foot traffic down from nearly16 million in 2008 to just around 6.5 million last year. Gaming revenue down 25% during time period.

The "paper" also said Harrahs tried to sell but no buyers. They will continue trying to sell this property.

I read a stat not too long ago that the average hotel night stay in Tunica was only 1 night. Yeah many people to attract from Memphis, in which u can b in Tunica from downtown in about 30 minutes. But Arkansas opened up slot parlors and other competition has been hurting Tunica. Not to mention the casinos are out in the middle of cotton fields with not much else to do. Yeah some attractions are nearby, but these r pretty much a one and done seen it places.

Before the 2008 economy crash, a lot of talk and news of a monster casino/hotel/entertainment complex to be built just south of where Hollywoods, Resorts, and Sam Town are located. Then the economy tanked and nothing came about of this place. At one time Tunica had people waiting in line outside to get into a casino with traffic backed up for miles. The state built bigger and better roads and much larger casinos over took the smaller guys (eg, Splash Casino). Tunica was up to 10 casinos at one time.

Also really not mentioned is Resorts and Ballys for closed over a year ago. No word on the future of these places has been mentioned lately.

Hopefully Tunica will remain with 9 casinos.

 level42 replied on Wednesday, 26th March 2014

Interesting fact about the average stay being 1 night. Now that I think about it...I'd say at least half of my Tunica stays have been only 1 night. Typically when I go I'm visiting clients in Birmingham and Memphis for work...and will stay my Memphis night there. A few times I've gone out for a weekend...usually for a concert or Memphis Redbirds game.

Even though I usually stay there, I quit playing at Harrah's years ago. They took away all the playable video poker, and the table game limits kept creeping up. Most of my play is at to sit at the bar, play video poker, and watch baseball. Sadly, the rooms at Roadhouse are in pretty bad shape, or I'd probably always stay there.

I'm surprised that Tunica's numbers are down so always seems hopping when I'm there. Hoping this isn't a sign of things to come. I often wonder how Bally's stays alive.

Interesting to see that Fitzgerald's just sold. Like Harrah's, it's located away from everything else...and is an absolute dump. Last time I was there...half the rooms on the 1st floor had no curtains so you could see inside them...they mostly had old mattresses and junk furniture stacked up in them. The building itself might be in worse shape than Harrah's. It sold for 62 million...which seems cheap to me. I'm sure Caesars will want much more for Harrah's.

 wpsteel66 replied on Thursday, 27th March 2014

I recall the Fitz remodeling all the rooms, lobby, and casino about 6 or so years ago. But I have not been in this place since the remodel. Shame that they let this place become a dump in such a short time after the remodel. But the owners have been in financial troubles for the past few years. No surprise they sold.

For this place literally being on the river, they did a good job during the flood in protecting by building the flood walls. Videos are on utube of guys on a boat 'driving' up the road into this property and going around taking video.

 anawas responded on Wednesday, 26th March 2014

Wow. I hope all the employees can find work; those resorts solely exist because the whole area was so much of an economic cesspool, casinos were seen as the only option.

This was the site of my first (legal) gaming experience, back in 2003, when it was called the Grand Hotel. I lost $100, but they sent me some free room offers and I was hooked.

Sad that it has fallen on hard times and succumbed to floodwaters. Odd that it flooded so much, since it's further from the Mississippi River than many of the other Tunica casinos.

I don't golf, but its adjacent golf course looked beautiful and the property also had shooting range (clays). Hard to believe there isn't a market for all that, even without the Mississippi River views.

But to echo the other posters, once I discovered the much-nicer Gold Strike and Horseshoe (and that you could walk between them!), I barely ever went back, except to cash the occasional coupon and gawk at its poker room

I left the area in 2006, shortly after the Ceasars-Harrah's merger that shuffled the names and ownership of 5 of the 9 casinos. I haven't been back since, but there's a soft spot in my hardened gambler's heart for the casinos.

 erzeszut replied on Thursday, 27th March 2014

Harrah's casino sits right on the river itself, as do all the casinos in Tunica. (This was required by Mississippi law until post-Katrina, when they relaxed it a little bit, though maybe just in Biloxi/Gulfport?)

Google satellite view:

The casino and Casino hotel tower at Harrah's flooded horribly. The towers across the road (Verandah and Terrace) may not have been as bad, I can't recall.

 vespajet replied on Thursday, 27th March 2014

Only the casinos on the Gulf Coast are allowed to be on land (The only exceptions are the Golden Moon and Silver Star in Choctaw.). The properties in Tunica have their casinos barges technically on the water but in some cases, it's a trickle of water or a drainage pond.

 wpsteel66 replied on Thursday, 27th March 2014

Harrah's two tower hotels across the street are protected by the levee. So these were not affected by the flood. In fact, all the casinos are between the river and levee. So when the flood comes, all casinos are affected.

The Fitz is closest to the river. As Vesajet mentioned, all other casinos are a barge sitting on a puddle of water. Harrahs sits on a big pond and the river is some distance away, but this is a flood plain. So no barrier to block the water hitting this casino.

The post-Katrina law now allows casinos to be on land, but within so many feet of the water. For instance, Riverwalk in Vicksburg is the first casino since 2005 and they are on land but sitting next to the river. Ameristar's barge no longer sits in water. They drained the pond and planted trees, but the barge is within feet of the water.

 anawas replied on Thursday, 27th March 2014

Thanks for the map link. Fitz and Gold Strike are a lot closer to the actual river, but the Harrah's property definitely is a lot closer to the river than I had thought. (My point was that you can't see the river from at least most of the hotel rooms, but the property was otherwise nice.)

 level42 replied on Thursday, 27th March 2014

So...I started thinking about this tonite...why were the Mississippi casinos required to be on the water in the first place? Does having them physically detached from the land by a few feet automatically appease the Southern Baptists? I don't see what putting them in the water actually accomplishes...other than making the construction more expensive and leaving them vulnerable to flooding. Maybe this is a holdover from the old "riverboat" laws that would not allow gambling in the state, but once you were in the water it was legal?

The really bad flood was in 2011. Even today there is still some visible flood damage around the Harrah's property and on the ground floor of the hotel.

There was another very minor flood about a year ago at Harrah's, but I don't think the casino closed for more than a day. I was there the day after they reopened...the hotel tower right by the casino was still closed.

For some reason, I just can't get the shuttering of this property off my mind. I'm worried it might be the early signs of a radical change in the casino industry in the US. After listening to the newest Vegas Gang today, I was amazed to hear how much casino revenue comes from the top 1% of players. Not having the high end food, beverage, and entertainment that Vegas has, and lacking the big bacc Asian play, I can imagine that it would be very tough to survive on locals and regional visitors that probably average a $500 or less gambling budget per trip. I really wonder if we'll see a shift in the next few years to the Tunica/Biloxi properties focusing more on food/beverage/entertainment to try and stay relevant and keep people visiting.

 adztheman replied on Friday, 28th March 2014

@Level 42; Missouri and Illinois did the same thing when each state opened casinos..and Harrahs had to spend $10 million during an election a few years ago when four words--4--were changed in the gaming law in Missouri to clarify the issues of barges that were in water, with casinos built on said barges, but were not necessarily on a river.

Illinois had a law that casinos on boats had to ''cruise'' up and down whatever body of water they were on; in East St Louis Il, across the Mississippi from St. Louis, the old Casino Queen Riverboat did in fact go up and down the Mississippi for a while...the law was later amended as towhat actually constituted a ''cruise'' which meant that the pilot of the boat would move the craft about 12 feet away from shore..drop anchor...and, what do you know, a ''cruise''.

The casinos in the water had to have life jackets on board the boats...the Admiral, which was a former excursion boat docked on the St. Louis waterfront, was knocked off its moorings by a barge a few years ago, and since it had no engines, was sitting in the middle of the Mississippi for hours..I missed that one by about 20 minutes...

The Casino Queen in now on dry land.

The idea of the casinos in both MO and IL was to attract tourism; what they wound up with were locals casinos for the most part.

The Tunica Casinos used to have insets in the Sunday St Louis Post Dispatch for what was a six hour drive or that Cape Girardeau has a casino on its own waterfront, that meant that Tunica need not be an option..

 lewintn responded on Thursday, 27th March 2014

I'm sorry to say I think most of those workers will not find jobs at the other casinos. I am in the area often for work and usually stay at Gold Strike. MGM has spent a ton of money over the last two years upgrading that property (rooms, new and nice buffet, bars, a non-smoking casino addition, etc.) and the Horseshoe is now making some much needed improvements to try to keep up with their neighbor. But, many of the other properties are in pretty bad shape. I can see the three there at Casino Center surviving and thriving but the Harrahs property was just too vast. I didn't enjoy staying there and having to use a shuttle bus to get to the casino and restaurants. I can't imagine what possible other use could be made of those facilities as, without the casino, there is certainly no need for hotel rooms!

 pkluvsvegas responded on Friday, 28th March 2014

I wonder if Harrah's Laughlin is next?
Like Tunica it is outside the center of action/ away from all the other resorts.

 level42 replied on Saturday, 29th March 2014

That's an interesting thought. Yeah...just like Tunica, Harrah's Laughlin is located a little ways away from everything else...though not as far as Tunica. I remember many years ago talking to a friend that was a host in Laughlin...Harrah's Laughlin was a decently profitable property with a certain set of loyal players...mostly older Caucasian males really into the boating scene. At the time (2008-ish), overall, Laughlin had higher gaming revenues than downtown Las Vegas. I'm curious to see the numbers for last year...I feel like that would be hard to sustain in today's economy.

 level42 responded on Monday, 2nd June 2014

Harrah's Tunica closed last nite at midnite. Kinda sad...not much fanfare...looks like they just turned out the lights and went home.

Harrah's Tunica Closes

Also, related to the closing...losing the Harrah's charter flights could really hurt the Tunica airport

Tunica Airport


 erzeszut replied on Tuesday, 3rd June 2014

Aww, that was just sad, to see the lights all turned off on that magnificent property. Had some good times there.

 level42 replied on Tuesday, 3rd June 2014

Same man...I think I've stayed there 7 times. I had kinda quit playing there though because there really wasn't any playable video poker...but...I still drank, slept, and hung out there. Really hope someone buys it, but...I can't imagine who would.


 level42 responded on Sunday, 8th March 2015

Looks like Caesars is looking to tear down the Harrah's Tunica casino barges, and possibly reopen the hotel/convention center at some point.

Harrah's Tunica


 level42 responded on Thursday, 27th August 2015

Welp, they finally started demolishing the old Harrah's Tunica Casino. Spent a lot of time there, sad to see it go.

CDCgamingreports Harrah's Tunica