Hitting the Jackpot

Harrah's New Orleans Casino survives Katrina, lighting intact
Posted November 20, 2006

Colorful, oversized blinking signs beckoning gamers inside are as iconic a casino element as the slot machines, blackjack tables and free drinks.

Prior to the destruction and turmoil of Hurricane Katrina in September 2005, Harrah’s New Orleans Casino wanted to relamp the four 60-foot electric signs that stand 10-feet tall around the casino entrance, at the foot of Canal Street on the bank of the Mississippi River.

In the past, the 115,000-square-foot casino used 15 watt incandescent lamps for the 2500 bulbs needed for each sign. As part of the relamping, the casino wanted to upgrade to a lighting system that would reduce energy consumption, create a brighter appearance, perform longer and come in a variety of colors. And sitting beside the Gulf Coast, the lamps also had to withstand moist conditions.

Working with TCP Inc. (Aurora, Ohio), casino facility manager Patrick Meyer chose to upgrade the signage using cold cathode lamps, which are recommended for rapid-cycle applications such as signage, rooflines, theaters and amusement parks.

Conventional fluorescent lamps have electrodes at each end that are heated to create an arc discharge that causes the lamp’s phosphors to glow and create light. That heating draws extra amps, which requires cooling and also runs up the electric bill.

Cold cathode lamps, on the other hand, don’t have the heaters, making them 10 to 30 percent more efficient. They also operate at a much higher voltage and lower current than conventional fluorescent lamps. The higher voltage overcomes the need to heat the tube while the lower arc current greatly extends the lamp’s life.

TCP’s 3 watt cold cathode lamps matched the casino’s existing lighting levels while reducing energy consumption by 30,000 watts per sign, or 120,000 watts for the entire system. The cold cathode lamps also produce 120 lumens per lamp and have a performance life of 25,000 hours.

A special phosphor coating on non-leaded glass enables the lamps to resist both fading and the effects of UV radiation. Cold cathode lamps are also resistant to vibration, including high winds.

TCP also worked with the casino to add a tight seal on each of the lamps to prevent moisture. Meyer ordered 10,000 of the lamps for Harrah’s in a variety of colors, including red, amber, green and blue, and completed the installation in April 2005.

“The cold cathode lamps were a major upgrade over our previous system,” he said. “They have a longer performance life and have a dramatic impact on our operations in terms of both reducing energy consumption and maintenance costs for the signs.”

All looked good for five months. Then Katrina hit. The category 4 hurricane brought sustained winds estimated at 145 miles –per hour and miles of flooding and destruction to the region.

A few days after the storm, Harrah’s electrical superintendent Gerald Fromeyer began assessing the damage to the casino. To his amazement, the cold cathode lamps were found intact and ready to welcome patrons back to a full house once the casino was up and running again.

Harrah’s ended up hitting its own jackpot.

Lighting - TCP Inc., Aurora, Ohio

Photography: Jack Lever, McMurray, Pa.