By SCOTT MCKIE B.P.
ONE FEATHER STAFF
The Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians is one step closer to establishing a Class II gaming facility in Cherokee County. Tribal Council passed Res. 190 during Budget Council on Tuesday, Mar. 2 which authorizes the TBE/TCGE Joint Class II Committee “to continue the planning and negotiating, and the seeking of necessary bank approvals and to secure all necessary bank loans” for such a facility.
The legislation passed by a vote of 9-0 with three Council members – Big Cove Rep. Teresa McCoy and Cherokee County – Snowbird Reps. Adam Wachacha and Diamond Brown Jr. absent. Rep. Wachacha and Rep. Brown were absent due to declining weather in their home community of Snowbird that day.
Principal Chief Michell Hicks commented on the measure, “A resolution approved by the Tribal Council of the Eastern Band of Cherokee will allow the Tribe an opportunity to explore the feasibility of expanding our economic development opportunities on tribal lands located in Cherokee County. These opportunities could allow expansion of Class II gaming as well as other businesses and will provide more jobs for tribal members and others in the region. Our economic development projects have been important for the region and we are committed to building a strong economy for North Carolina.”
Rep. Brown said he fully supports the idea. “Overall, I feel like it’s going to help our people.” He said it is his feeling that a gaming facility in Cherokee County will be more of a draw to people from Atlanta, north Georgia, eastern Tennessee, and Alabama.
He said some have questioned the need for a second facility and have said it might not work, but Rep. Brown points to the south as an example. He related that the Seminole Hard Rock Café and the Miccosukee Casino operate within an hour of each other and “both do very well.”
“I think it definitely will be a plus for our people,” said Rep. Brown. “I want something there to help our people prosper in the right way. Council is looking out for our people.”
Rep. McCoy was unhappy with the way the legislation was passed. “That legislation was submitted as an emergency. That legislation was discussed in a closed session after a motion was made to have it aired. I just feel that Council didn’t have enough time to make a good decision on it. I feel the people need the information.”
She related that she plans to file a protest on the resolution in the coming weeks. “This is not the time in our Tribe’s economic history to step into any more debt like that. If the Tribe is going to guarantee loans, then I want us to guarantee loans for health care and housing. This is not a sensible thing for the Tribe.”
Norma Moss, TCGE chairperson, commented, “The proposed Class II facility will add to the continued success of the gaming enterprise. A location in Cherokee County will promote visitation from other markets and significant job opportunities for the area. This is a positive step for growth of the Tribe’s gaming business.”
According to the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act of 1988, The term “class II gaming” means (i) the game of chance commonly known as bingo (whether or not electronic, computer, or other technologic aids are used in connection therewith) –
(I) which is played for prizes, including monetary prizes, with cards bearing numbers or other designations,
(II) in which the holder of the card covers such numbers or designations when objects, similarly numbered or designated, are drawn or electronically determined, and
(III) in which the game is won by the first person covering a previously designated arrangement of numbers or designations on such cards, including (if played in the same location) pull-tabs, lotto, punch boards, tip jars, instant bingo, and other games similar to bingo.