By Steve Beauregard
Residents or visitors to Charlotte wanting to get their gamble on will have to hit the road, as there aren’t any casinos in the immediate area.
In fact, while casinos are spreading throughout the country, there are only two casinos in the entire state of North Carolina.
Adding to Charlotte’s casino isolation is the fact that neighboring states to the north (Virginia) and south (South Carolina) do not have casinos either.
The Tar Heel state used to have horse racing tracks, and even video poker machines for a while back in the 2000’s, but now the only gambling options now for Charlotte-area residents are lottery games, charity bingo games, or a long road trip to an Indian casino to the west.
Closest Casino to Charlotte, NC
The Queen City’s nearest casino is a Native American-owned Harrah’s casino located three hours to the west of downtown Charlotte.
Situated 165 miles west of Charlotte, Harrah’s Cherokee Casino Resort is the closest casino to Charlotte.
The drive, most of which takes place on Interstate 26, usually takes around three hours. However if making this drive on Friday afternoon, you can see this time extend close to four hours.
Run and operated by Caesars Entertainment, the casino is owned by the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians, the only federally recognized tribe in North Carolina. They also own the state’s only other casino, the Cherokee Valley River Casino in Murphy. (More on that later).
(Here’s the driving route from Charlotte “A” to the Cherokee Casino Resort “B”)
Harrah’s Cherokee Casino Resort
Not only is this casino popular with Charlotteans, its location near the entrance to The Great Smoky Mountains National Park means it sees a lot of tourist traffic as well.
Harrah’s Cherokee Casino Resort sets on 56 acres just outside tiny Cherokee, North Carolina.
Built in 1997, it is North Carolina’s first casino.
The 150,000 square foot multi-story casino is spacious and open, with a contemporary vibe.
There are a total of 3,600 slot machines and video poker machines here.
Although the casino opened back in the 1990’s with just machines, there now are 150 table games. These include regular real live craps, blackjack, roulette, along with games like Let-it-Ride and Three-Card poker.
You’ll also find electronic baccarat games and those shared electronic roulette games where everyone plays at their own monitor, as a community dealer spins the roulette wheel.
Harrah’s Cherokee Casino Resort’s lineup of ten restaurants include everything from a Dunkin Donuts to a Ruth’s Chris Steak House. You also have your standard casino café, a buffet, a Johnny Rockets, as well as quick service pizza Asian noodle restaurants.
An enclosed pathway over the pretty Soco Creek leads from the casino to the hotel, and Cherokee’s Casino Resort’s three hotel towers, (including a soaring 21-story tower) combine to provide a total of 1,108 rooms and suites.
Other amenities include both an indoor pool and a newer outdoor pool (open seasonally), which has a poolside bar and cabanas available for rent. The Mandara spa boasts of 18,000 square feet of pampering.
Guests staying at the hotel also have access to the nearby 72 Sequoyah National Golf Club.
There’s also a 15,000 square foot conference center and the resort’s 3,000 seat events center has hosted acts ranging from Willie Nelson to Penn and Teller, Tony Bennett to Lady Antebellum, among others.
A new addition to Harrah’s Cherokee Casino Resort is what they call the “Ultrastar Mult-tainment Center”, which is a clever way of saying, “bowling alley.”
The Ultrastar Multi-tainment Center has 24 lanes of bowling, the Soundbytes sports bar, a spacious arcade, and Strikes Lounge.
Please note that unlike Las Vegas casinos, you won’t be served free alcoholic drinks here, however they are available for purchase. Please also note that drink service ends at 2 AM every night.
Self-parking is free here and there are two large multi-story parking garages attached to the property. I believe valet parking is free as well.
777 Casino Drive
Cherokee, NC. 28719
Harrah’s Cherokee Valley River Casino
North Carolina’s only other casino is the little sister to Harrah’s Cherokee Casino Resort.
Owned by the same Indian tribe, it’s called Harrah’s Cherokee Valley River Casino, and is 223 miles from Charlotte in Murphy.
While newer than the Harrah’s in Cherokee, this casino is much smaller than it’s older sibling, with about a third of the machine count and square footage.
That, combined with the fact it’s 58 further miles away, means that most gamblers from Charlotte stick to Harrah’s Cherokee Casino Resort.
Other Casinos Near Charlotte
A third option for gambling near Charlotte is a trip south to a casino boat.
Called the Big “M” Casino, these two casino boasts sail out of Little River, South Carolina, (just north of Myrtle Beach). It’s 183 miles away from downtown Charlotte.
The ships go out to sea, (in international waters outside of U.S. and state gaming laws), and return on that same day. There is a fee to ride on one of the Big “M” ships, with weekday sailing prices starting at $20.
(Photos courtesy of Harrah’s Cherokee Casino Resort)