ATLANTIC CITY-Pending final approvals, Harrah’s Entertainment is set to start construction of a $550-million expansion of its Harrah’s Atlantic City hotel/casino. And the final plan is more than 160 rooms larger and $90 million more expensive that an earlier proposal reported by this past June.

The project calls for a new 40-story tower with 964 guest rooms, boosting the property’s room count to the vicinity of 2,600. Also part of the plan is a new spa, several new eateries, and a new 172,000-sf retail and entertainment complex. The hotel’s existing buffet, which will be replaced by a 650-seat area, will be converted into additional gaming space, adding 400 slots and 20 tables.

The property is located in this city’s Marina District, near the Borgata, which itself is currently expanding to the tune of $525 million. Both properties are located away from this city’s boardwalk and its attractions, and part of the impetus for the expansion is to add non-gaming amenities to the site, according to Carlos Tolosa, president of Harrah’s eastern division. Besides gaming, “there hasn’t been a lot to do there.”

And as far as the added rooms, “the new tower will allow us to capture more of the tremendous unmet demand for hotel rooms in Atlantic City,” Tolosa says. Harrah’s expanded its flagship property here as recently as 2002, when it spent $200 million to add rooms and amenities. The company is also in the process of developing plans to upgrade and expand its Bally’s and Caesars properties on the boardwalk, which it acquired when it bought rival Caesar’s Entertainment earlier this year. Besides an upgrade, Bally’s will also be rebranded, and plans for both properties are expected to be released by early 2006, according to Tolosa.

As far as the Harrah’s Atlantic City expansion, the retail and entertainment center is slated for completion by the end of next year, according to Tolosa. The new hotel tower is expected to be ready by mid-2008.

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