Indoor Smoking Returning to the Casino at Harrah’s Cherokee

Harrah's Cherokee in North CarolinaHarrah's Cherokee Casino Entrance sign

After over three years of being entirely non-smoking, lighting up will again be permitted inside Harrah’s Cherokee, according to players and an internal document. The smoking area is expected to open in December. 

Harrah’s Cherokee closed due to the pandemic on March 18, 2020. When it reopened on May 18, smoking was not allowed anywhere on the casino floor. A resolution was passed that banned indoor smoking in public areas on the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians’ land. This was later amended to allow indoor smoking on casino floors if the area is walled off from nonsmoking areas and has a separate ventilation system.

The new smoking area is currently under construction. It will be near the Caesars Sportsbook and WSOP poker room. There will be 150 to 200 slot and video poker machines in the smoking room. Live tables will not be available there. However, Harrah’s Cherokee says there may be electronic ones.

Many employees were thrilled to see Harrah’s Cherokee go non-smoking in 2020. As expected, there is some concern by that group about smoking returning. Casino management is working on a fair scheduling process to ensure shifts vary between different parts of the casino floor.

Competition from Virginia casinos cited as a reason for the change

The internal document attributes “competing gaming options in the area” as a reason for this move. Casinos opened in Bristol and Danville, Virginia. Smoking is permitted at each. 

While it is irrefutable that secondhand smoke is harmful, studies repeatedly point to casino smoking bans having a substantial effect on gaming revenues. It is no coincidence that the top three and seven of the top eight states in terms of gaming revenue all permit smoking in commercial casinos. New York is the only exception.

The smoking ban at Harrah’s Cherokee likely had little effect on business until competitors opened in southern Virginia. The casino hopes to cater to all players with little effect on nonsmokers. 

The status of smoking at Harrah’s Cherokee Valley River is unknown

There is a major construction project underway at Harrah’s Cherokee Valley River. A poker room and more slot space will be added. It is unknown at this time if smoking will be permitted when construction is completed. The same tribal ordinance that allows smoking at Harrah’s Cherokee would apply to the Murphy Valley River location. 

Nonsmoking High Limits at Harrah's Cherokee Valley River in North Carolina

North Carolina mobile sports betting to open in 2024

All North Carolina sportsbooks will remain smoke-free. However, sports bettors who do not wish to deal with traveling to one of the state’s three casinos, or walk by smoking room entrances, will be able to make wagers on phones and computers soon. North Carolina online sports betting will launch in 2024. That will allow players to make bets with many sportsbooks. 

Currently, there are only two legal North Carolina sports betting companies. Caesars Sportsbook operates out of Harrah’s Cherokee and Harrah’s Cherokee Valley River. IGT handles the sports betting operations at Catawba Two Kings.

The two Caesars Sportsbooks in North Carolina have a full-service betting counter. Harrah’s Cherokee has stadium and VIP seating. The sportsbook at Catawba Two Kings only has kiosks and a small viewing area that is surrounded by slot machines.