Harrah's Finishes 1st Phase of Aggrssive Expansion

Reed Travel Features

LAS VEGAS -- Harrah's Entertainment unveiled the first phase of a $200 million expansion program at its property here.

Harrah's Las Vegas opened a 10,000-square-foot addition to its existing casino.

The new gaming space features a Carnaval theme that soon will highlight the entire casino and replace the old riverboat theme.

Harrah's Las Vegas, which is the largest of the firm's properties, also soon will debut a number of other ambitious enhancement efforts.

The centerpiece of the expansion program, which is set to be completed in phases throughout 1997, is a dramatic transformation of the exterior and interior, which will bring to the property a Mardi Gras and Carnaval atmosphere reminiscent of the colorful celebrations of those events.

The property's former giant riverboat facade already has been removed and is being replaced by a European-style facade adorned with dark glass and brilliant colors.

Harrah's also is capitalizing on its prime location on the Strip by creating a festive atmosphere to entice passersby to venture into the property.

For example, Carnaval Court, a plaza area offering an entertainment-oriented retail experience, will feature decorative palms, a fountain, music and strolling performers.

A grand entranceway with a Brazilian-themed lounge, the first indoor and outdoor bar on the Strip, will lead customers to the property's new casino carrying the Mardi Gras and Carnaval theme.

Besides the 10,000 square feet of casino space that recently premiered, Harrah's will add 23,000 square feet of additional casino space, bringing the property's total to 103,325 square feet.

A new hotel tower will feature 986 standard rooms and 74 suites, bringing the property's total count to 2,699 rooms and 108 suites.

Harrah's also is creating six specialty restaurants as part of the expansion.

Included in the lineup will be a steakhouse, an Asian restaurant, an Italian venue, a buffet, a 24-hour cafe and a specialty coffee shop.

Upon completion of the project in 1997, the property will become the flagship in the Harrah's Entertainment lineup.

Although Harrah's already enjoys a strong position in the Las Vegas marketplace, the firm said attention to its facilities is vital to competitive positioning and long-term success.

The expansion program at Harrah's Las Vegas is just one facet of an ambitious growth strategy designed to solidify Harrah's Entertainment's position as the most diversified firm in the industry.

The strategy, which Harrah's unveiled last year, includes pouring more than $1 billion into expansion and enhancements at its existing properties and into new developments in markets where the firm already has a presence.

Harrah's also said it will pursue acquisition of companies or properties that fit strategically within its brand or offer an opportunity for a second brand.

The growth initiative includes investing more than $450 million over the next few years in improvements at Harrah's properties in Las Vegas, Atlantic City, Shreveport, La., and Joliet, Ill. Improvements will include the addition of more than 3,000 new guest rooms, new casino space, and enhanced or expanded restaurant and retail facilities.

Under the growth plan, Harrah's also said it would invest approximately $600 million on a second property in Las Vegas to complement its expanded and enhanced existing property.

In addition to the domestic efforts, Harrah's also said it would explore opportunities for international growth through development and acquisition.

The firm made its first move into the international gaming market with the opening of Harrah's Sky City in Auckland, New Zealand, in February 1996.

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