The Grinders Report: Harrah's New Orleans

New Orleans With Less Money and Less Meat

Posted by Richie Raviolis

What does the VT Grinders crew do when they go to New Orleans the week before Mardi Gras and have no place to stay for the last night of their trip? Stay up all night at the Harrah's Casino, or course!

Miss Melody and I had a problem, one that we knew going in; that the place we were staying for a week just outside the Garden District in New Orleans didn't have a room for the last night of our stay. We had looked at some other places before our trip, but it being the weekend before Mardi Gras, most places were full or just too expensive.

"We'll figure it out when we get there..." we told each other.

At some point we had toyed with the idea of hitting Harrah's casino, as a backup plan instead of finding a place to sleep, since we could stay there (and gamble) all night until our flight the next morning. But we still had a week of enjoying New Orleans ahead of us... so no need to worry about that now, right?

I admit, it would be easy for me to digress for pages about how great the city of New Orleans (still) is, and how wonderful the people (still) are. It would also be easy for me to enter into the political fray and discuss the lingering problems, like the (lack of) rebuilding of certain areas of the city. These are things that need to be discussed, things that need to be seen by EVERYONE in this country. But for the purpose of this story, I will leave it at that.

Let me instead tell you a little about Harrah's Casino and hotel, (the new hotel opened in September 2006). It's location is great, a spot right on the river (the Mississippi, that is), right next to the French Quarter in an area called the Warehouse District, (for obvious reasons). It is also the only land-based casino in the city, (for not so obvious reasons). It turns out that New Orleans has a law that allows for only one land-based casino, and Harrah's is it. The law does allow for boat casinos, many of which have not re-opened since Katrina.

Some people, like the mayor, feel that getting more casinos can be a quick financial fix for the city, bringing both jobs and tourists. A local newspaper reported that "New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin's proposal to turn much of the central city into a Las Vegas-like casino district faces numerous hurdles involving changes in state law and exclusive casino rights in the city now controlled by Harrah's Entertainment Inc.".

Many locals feel that opening up the city to more casinos would destroy what makes New Orleans special, and I have to say that I agree. Then I read an op-ed piece by a guy who argued that New Orleans has always been a gambling town since it's very beginning; with secluded card rooms behind the bar, and so forth. But it's quiet a leap from secluded card rooms to a downtown, Vegas-style development, don't you think?

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