Harrah's Council Bluffs
Overview and History
(click any image to enlarge)
Harrah’s Council Bluffs is a small casino open 24 hours a day that appeals to those who prefer a more intimate casino experience, compared to its larger "neighbor" at Horseshoe Council Bluffs. The two casinos are about 2½ miles apart. In the same building and adjacent to the casino is a 251-room hotel.
In 1989 Iowa became the first state to legalize riverboat gambling. Harrah's originally was a riverboat casino that opened in 1991. (Originally, bets could be a maximum of $5 and patrons could not lose more than $200 during one session in a casino. Those wager restrictions were removed three years later.)
The state legislature voted in 2004 to allow casinos to be located on moored barges in man-made water basins, eliminating the restriction that the casinos had to be on boats.
Harrah's offers complimentary valet parking for all guests and there also is surface parking, as well as a parking garage. The garage can be very useful in the winter when it snows.
There is gated parking on the first level for Seven Stars and Diamond cardholders, but you first need to obtain a special card to access it. This card can be obtained from the Diamond Lounge at Harrah's (or the nearby Horseshoe where it also works for reserved parking there).
Relatively inexpensive rental cars are available at the airport, or from nearby Enterprise.
Even-numbered rooms offer a view of downtown Omaha across the river, right, as well the outdoor Stir Concert Cove (see below). (If you're in your room during one of these concerts, you'll hear the music, but won't actually be able to see the performers because the stage is tented.)
Alternatively, the other rooms overlook a golf course and parking lot.
Except for floors two and 11, the entire hotel is non-smoking.
Refrigerators and coffeemakers are in all the rooms.
Standard rooms, left, are average-sized, typical of most Harrah's properties around the country and have "standard-issue" Harrah's furnishings. In addition to a king or two queen beds, there is a small round table and two comfy upholstered chairs. Bathrooms have one sink, a toilet and a combination tub/shower.
One-bedroom suites have a parlor about the size of a standard room furnished with a sofa, chair and ottoman, small round table that seats four, and a built-in "bar" that contains the refrigerator and where the coffeemaker sits. The bathrooms are larger and have two sinks, a Jacuzzi, shower and toilet area. Both the parlor and the bedroom have 42" flat screen TVs.
While there are plenty of drawers,the biggest drawback to the suites is the small armoire that serves as the only closet. Removing the robes will give you two extra hangers, but there's really room for only eight hangers, along with an ironing board and iron. The closets in the standard rooms are only marginally larger.
There is a small fitness center on the lower level, left, but it's closed during some of the concerts when the space is used as a staging area for performers. Just inside the door to the fitness center, which is accessed with your room key, there are men's and women's bathrooms with lockers (get a key from the front desk), showers, and a sauna.
In the hotel lobby is a small gift shop, Essentials. Also, off the lobby adjacent to the front desk is a small
"business center" with two computers and a printer. You can access the
room with your room key, check your email and, if applicable, print
your boarding pass.
What you won't find is a swimming pool or lobby bar.
The casino has a little more than 500 slots – all the typical titles, as well as a variety of table games such as craps, roulette, blackjack, High Card Flush, Mississippi Stud, Pai Gow Poker, Three-Card Poker and Texas Hold'em Bonus Poker. There is a small non-smoking area.
The casino is equipped with Caesars proprietary Total Touch
system that allows customers to order drinks, redeem free play, check
their Total Rewards account balances, and receive real-time offers based
Alcoholic beverages are complimentary for Seven Stars and Diamond cardholders; others can use Reward Credits to pay for drinks. The casino has self-serve soft drinks, coffee and iced tea at designated beverage centers.
The Total Rewards Center and Cashier are located together and staffed by the same employees 24 hours a day.
NOTE: If you're playing to earn a daily tier bonus, you'll have to manually calculate your combined tier credits from Harrah's and the Horseshoe. The amount shown as your daily play on the Total Touch pad reflects only your score at the casino at which you are playing.
Seven Stars Lounge
There is no Seven Stars Lounge, but there is a Diamond Lounge. Even though Seven Stars cardholders can bring three guests (and Diamond cardholders one guest), each guest must have a valid Total Rewards card – any tier level.
Open Sundays through Thursdays from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. and Fridays and Saturdays from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m., the lounge, which has the ambience of an employee lunch room, has a
small bar seating about eight people, a salad bar and a soup of the day,
plus a special main dish ranging from hamburgers and fried chicken to
crab cakes, sandwiches, pizza and chicken tenders. (The menu at the Diamond Lounge at the Horseshoe is the same each day. You can get a calendar of menus when you check-in to the lounge.)
There also are
popcorn, cookies and other desserts available, as well as self-serve
soft drinks, coffee, hot chocolate, cappuccino and iced tea. Food is
served 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. and again from 5 to 8 p.m. On Sunday the
lounge serves brunch.
There are no beverage servers, so order your drink from the bartender and carry it to your table.
though, whenever there is an outdoor concert a portion of the lounge closest to the windows overlooking the concert venue is open only to invited guests. The floor-to-ceiling windows are opened, weather permitting, so guests can enjoy performances from the comfort of their seats in the lounge.
Guests make take beverages out of the lounge and to their rooms, but not into the casino.
In addition, the lounge has a computer and a printer if you want to check email or print a boarding pass. Daily newspapers are available to read while in the lounge.
Dining, Entertainment and Other Amenities
For fine dining there is 360 Steakhouse. The 360 is on the top floor with windows offering a view of downtown Omaha. They also have a bar overlooking downtown Omaha.
In addition, the casino has a Fresh Market Square Buffet. For 24-hour dining Harrah's offers the Stir Cove Backstage Grill. [Minor quibble: If you order toast, it comes pre-buttered. If you want your toast "dry" just remember to request no butter.]
Seven Stars, Diamond and Platinum cardholders get a 10 percent discount at the Backstage Grill if they're not using comps, coupons or other special offers. The buffet has special pricing for all Total Rewards cardholders.
At its Stir Concert Cove Harrah’s has an outdoor concert series that runs spring through fall. There is a special entrance for Seven Stars and Diamond cardholders.
Click here for the current schedule.
For indoor entertainment, just insider the casino, Harrah's has a Tag Lounge & Bar with more than 28 cutting-edge interactive electronic games, a massive video wall featuring 16 55” TVs, and a Hop’Tails menu that features unique craft beer cocktails.
For golfers there is Westwood Golf Course and Dodge Riverside Golf Course.
And, while it has no connection to Harrah's and you cannot use Reward Credits for purchases, a nice alternative for drinking and dining is Caddy's Riverside Grille, right, in the Dodge Riverside Golf Course clubhouse. (This photo was taken on a day that Harrah's was sponsoring a golf tournament; normally, there would be no Harrah's Council Bluffs sign.) Caddy's is a short walk from the casino/hotel exit to the Stir Concert Cove and just a little further past the entrance to the Cove. Prices are reasonable and, in many cases, less than those at the Stir Cove Backstage Grill.
The clubhouse also has a small pro shop.
Should You Choose This For Your Annual Retreat?
You probably won't find a friendlier or more knowledgeable staff – other than at the Horseshoe.
However, your dining choices are pretty limited –
even though you can cross-charge between both Harrah's and the Horseshoe. Each has a high-end steakhouse, a buffet, and a 24-hour outlet for lighter meals and snacks. It would be nice if there were an Italian restaurant, an Asian restaurant or some other less expensive alternative, at either Harrah's or the Horseshoe.
It also would be nice if the hotel had a pool, a larger fitness center and/or a spa.
In addition, the casino is very small, especially compared to the larger Horseshoe. Despite the fact that the hotel at Harrah's is immaculately maintained, given a choice, I'd probably opt for staying at the Hilton Garden Inn which is adjacent – and directly connected – to the Horseshoe. However, if you're using your Annual Retreat or Aspirations Level 1 trip, you must be booked at Harrah's.
In terms of the size and ambience of the Diamond Lounges, there's really no comparison – the Horseshoe's lounge wins hands-down. While the daily menus are identical, the Horseshoe's lounge is much larger and more inviting.
Plus, when it's open and for those who qualify, the General Manager's Club is probably the better alternative to relax and enjoy a cocktail.
Compared to the full buffets served in Atlantic City, the Diamond Lounges in Council Bluffs basically serve one entree, then supplement it with a small salad bar, soup du jour, and some cookies and other small desserts. Though some were obviously making the bill of fare their dinner, we're talking about pasta, chicken fried steak, make-your-own sandwiches, and fish and chips.
The General Manager's Club usually offers marginally better options such as sesame chicken, grilled sirloin and prime rib.
As always, when you check-in, be sure to verify that your $500 comp account has been set-up and what it can be used for. Gratuities may be charged to your room and settled at check-out with your credit card on file. Best advice is to keep all your receipts until you settle your final bill.
Where Harrah's Council Bluffs Is Located
Those flying to Council Bluffs will take flight to Omaha's Eppley Airfield
. From there it's about a 15-minute drive to Harrah's.
*subject to change
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