By SCOTT MCKIE B.P.
ONE FEATHER STAFF
Live table games have now come to Harrah’s Cherokee Casino. The first hands of blackjack were dealt during a special event for high rollers held on Wednesday, Aug. 15.
“It feels great to be here,” said Tribal Council Chairman Jim Owle. “We’ve all worked so hard to get here. The Chief, the Vice Chief, and Tribal Council have all worked very hard on getting this here and getting it implemented.”
Owle continued, “I just want to say thanks to TCGE, TGC and all the folks that had a hand in it and the lobbyists who have helped us through this process. It’s been a long, drawn-out process, but it’s finally here and I’m just glad to see it roll out.”
Brooks Robinson, Harrah’s Cherokee senior vice president and general manager, said, “Right now, I feel overwhelmed because we’ve waited so long. I’ve only been here for a few years, but I know for the Tribe, the Chief and the employees that have been here since day one, it’s pretty overwhelming for them right now.”
“We’re excited. Our players are so excited. The jobs that we are bringing just for this initiative are phenomenal. It’s going to be wonderful for the area, and I’m very excited to be here and be a part of it.”
Harrah’s officials related that around 500 new jobs have been created as a result of the live table games.
Wednesday’s event was a practice event of sorts for the main opening of the table games which will occur at an official event with tribal and state officials on Tuesday, Aug. 21.
“This has been a long, many, many years in the process, and it’s finally here,” said Bob Blankenship, TGC Board. “I think this will increase revenue overall. I think this and with all of the new restaurants and all of the new hotel rooms, it’s just a great future for the Tribe.”
Gov. Beverly Perdue signed the legislation on June 6 that changed state law to allow live table gaming at Harrah’s Cherokee per an amended gaming compact signed in May. Tribal Council gave their stamp of approval on Friday, June 8, and the Department of Interior gave final approval on Friday, Aug. 3.
“This agreement is about creating jobs and growing the economy in western North Carolina,” Gov. Perdue said in a statement following the signing in June.
Per the compact agreement, the Tribe will pay the state a percentage of gross receipts from the table games, which will be used for education within the state, over a period of 30 years including:
- 4 percent for the first five years
- 5 percent for the next five years
- 6 percent for the next five years
- 7 percent for the next five years and
- 8 percent for the next 10 years.