Tops of the Town

Our readers’ picks of the area’s best

(page 3 of 11)

BEST Place to Place Your Bets

Games of chance have long held a prominent place in the New Orleans cultural mix. Professional gamblers once plied the riverboat trade here, and a stretch of modern-day Burgundy Street through the Faubourg Marigny was originally named Rue de Craps after the popular dice game. But when Harrah’s New Orleans Casino set up shop, it opened a new chapter in New Orleans gambling history. Harrah’s became the city’s first, officially recognized, land-based casino.

Harrah’s evokes New Orleans imagery everywhere, from its Carnival motif to the artificial live oaks sprouting up through the gaming floor, to Jean Lafitte pirate themes in the décor. Across 115,000 square feet of gaming areas, visitors can try their luck at more than 2,100 slots, from penny-a-pull to high-limit machines. There are more than 100 table games, plus a dedicated poker room. The facility houses a diversity of entertainment and dining venues including Masquerade, Harrah’s Theatre, Besh Steak, Bambu Asian Grill & Sushi Bar, the Buffet at Harrah’s, Fuddruckers, McAlister’s and Starbucks.

The gaming company traces its roots to a bingo parlor opened in Reno, Nev. by entrepreneur Bill Harrah in 1937. Today, it’s a global concern doing business on four continents under the casino brand names Harrah’s, Caesar’s and Horseshoe. Harrah’s first came to New Orleans in 1995, opening what was billed as a temporary casino inside the Municipal Auditorium. Within six months, the operation closed and Harrah’s filed for bankruptcy protection, but it was hardly the end for the story. Plans for the company’s permanent facility moved forward, and the modern casino opened in 1999 at the foot of Canal Street on the site of the demolished Rivergate convention center.

After Hurricane Katrina and the levee failures, Harrah’s reopened in 2006, and that same year debuted its new Harrah’s New Orleans Hotel on Poydras Street. This 450-room hotel added a new, 27-story tower to the city’s skyline. Closer to the ground, the company has developed its Fulton Street Mall, a pedestrian corridor lined with shops and restaurants and an outdoor venue for special events. Each holiday season, the company hosts its “Miracle on Fulton Street,” with a block-long corridor of festive lights and periodic “faux snow” flurries, and the mall has hosted pep rallies for the city’s sports teams. 

– I.M.

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