Caesars closing Harrah’s Tunica on June 2

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Caesars Entertainment recently announced Harrah’s Casino in Tunica, Miss., will close June 2. The property has been for sale for quite some time, yet the announcement was unexpected by locals and employees alike.

“After exploring every other viable alternative, we have come to the difficult but necessary conclusion to close Harrah’s Tunica in an effort to appropriately position our business for the current market opportunity and ensure the long-term viability of our remaining operations in the vicinity,” said John Payne, president of central markets and partnership development.

Harrah’s, opened in 1996, was the only true resort property in Tunica, with three hotels, a shooting range and a golf course.

This decision will leave 1,300 employees without jobs, and though they will receive preference at other Caesars properties, there are only 80 or so jobs available at Horseshoe and Roadhouse (CET-owned Tunica properties). This is a pretty significant blow to the county reporting the state’s highest unemployment rate at 17.3 percent.

For the poker room, this is complete devastation. Just a few years ago, the WSOP stop at this property was the largest in the country. Though numbers have diminished a bit, I dealt this tournament just two months ago and was thrilled with the thriving turnout. The live-action room at Harrah’s always has been a staple in the Tunica market. Just off Highway 61 out of Memphis, Harrah’s was the first stop and for a long time, promised the highest likelihood of tourist and fish.

Even as the room declined a bit with the economic downturn, faithful regulars would still show up for fantastic customer service and regular promotions.

So what does this mean for Tunica? At least in the short term, this is great news for Horseshoe. After the announcement of Horseshoe replacing the now-defunct Gold Strike tournaments with their own, this will continue to increase numbers.

Though there hasn’t been an official announcement, it’s expected the WSOP event will continue annually, just under Horseshoe leadership. This eliminates a great number of available hotel rooms in the area and now limits poker to just Horseshoe and Hollywood Casino.

Be sure to support Tunica poker for the Southern Poker Challenge, which runs until May 5 at Horseshoe. Details are available at horseshoetunica.com.

This also would be a great time to stop in at the Harrah’s poker room, bid farewell and show some appreciation for the staff that has taken care of players for years.

Email me your thoughts on the poker market in Tunica or let me know at the ’Shoe tournament. As always, I appreciate your feedback.

— Email Jennifer at jennifergay80@hotmail.com.