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UPDATE: Harrah's Employees Will Be Furloughed Started April 16

Courtesy of Harrah's Cherokee Casino
Harrah's has locations on the Qualla Boundary and in Murphy. How are they preparing for the coronavirus?

(Update 4/15) 

Harrah’s Cherokee Casinos has announced that both locations will remain closed through the end of April. Employees will continue to be paid through April 15, however, during the extended closure beginning on April 16 the majority of employees will be placed on furlough. Furloughed employees will continue to receive medical benefits which will be provided and paid for by the company through reopening or June 30, whichever comes first, according to a press release. 


(Update 3/16) Due to the serious public health emergency created by the COVID-19 pandemic, Harrah’s Cherokee Casinos will be temporarily closed for a two week period effective at 6am, Wednesday, March 18, 2020, according to a press release. 

The release explains that during the closure, Harrah’s Cherokee Casinos will be paying two weeks of pay to all team members and benefits will not be interrupted.

There is no date for reopening at this time. 


Originally published 3/13: 

Harrah’s Cherokee Casinos is one of the biggest employers in the region with locations on the Qualla Boundary and in Murphy. They employ over 4,000  people and bring in millions of visitors to the region to stay at their hotels, gamble or eat at one of their many dining establishments.


That means there are a lot of people coming through the multi-pronged organization. So how is the casino taking steps to prepare for and stop the spread of the coronavirus? 


Harrah’s Cherokee Casino said at the beginning of March that they have taken precautions with three employees who had recently travelled internationally. They have been spending three paid weeks at home to ensure they did not bring the virus to the casino, according to the Cherokee One Feather.  Shows have also been cancelled at the casino.


Michael Fisher, spokesperson for Harrah’s sent over this statement from Harrah’s management company Caesars Entertainment: 


“As guests are planning their next visit to one of Caesars Entertainment’s properties in North America, we anticipate that they may have questions about the company’s efforts to manage Coronavirus (COVID-19). Every day, we closely monitor and analyze developments and statements from local, national and international health agencies, and we are taking actions to comply with their directives which are based on facts and medical science.


There is no issue more important to us than making sure we manage this situation as effectively as possible, so guests continue to feel confident visiting us. We have appointed a senior management team who meet daily to make decisions on how we can further improve our programs and actions to help protect guests and employees. The health authorities tell us that, to prevent the spread of Coronavirus, we must: wash hands frequently, heighten cleaning practices, avoid contact with sick people, stay away from work when ill and not travel to areas with high infection rates. All our actions are focused in these areas.” 


Additionally, Caesars says that they have set up additional reminders for employees and guests to wash their hands, as well as providing additional hand sanitizer dispensers. The organization is also cleaning high-touch surfaces more frequently. Caesars Entertainment is suspending international business travel to high infection areas and requiring employees who travel to those areas for personal reasons to stay home for 3 weeks. 


If an employee appears to be suffering from flu-like symptoms, they will be asked to promptly seek medical attention and to remain at home until they are free of symptoms. There are also additional protocols for guests who need medical attention.

Harrah's Cherokee Center in Asheville has already cancelled shows such as Jeff Dunham's comedy show planned for March 21.

Lilly Knoepp is Senior Regional Reporter for Blue Ridge Public Radio. She has served as BPR’s first fulltime reporter covering Western North Carolina since 2018. She is from Franklin, NC. She returns to WNC after serving as the assistant editor of Women@Forbes and digital producer of the Forbes podcast network. She holds a master’s degree in international journalism from the City University of New York and earned a double major from UNC-Chapel Hill in religious studies and political science.