State Officials considering gaming compact amendments to allow table games at Harrah’s Cherokee
By SCOTT MCKIE B.P.
ONE FEATHER STAFF
Games at Harrah’s Cherokee Casino have been played on electronic machines since it opened in 1997. Various attempts have been made to bring table games to the property to no avail, but momentum seems to be gaining for that to occur.
The General Assembly of North Carolina passed a Joint Resolution (938) on Thursday, July 28 declaring which legislation and bills they will consider when they reconvene in September, and “Bills to ratify and make statutory conforming changes pursuant to a Tribal Compact negotiated by the Governor” is included.
“Gov. Perdue is focused on promoting economic development and job creation throughout North Carolina,” said Christine Mackey, Gov. Perdue’s press secretary. “The Eastern Band of Cherokee approached the Governor’s Office because they wanted to negotiate with us to expand the current Compact to allow table gaming. The expansion that the Cherokee proposed could create hundreds of jobs in western North Carolina. To expand the Compact to allow table gaming, the General Assembly would have to act to clarify the law.”
“Seventeen years ago, the Governor stood with then Gov. Jim Hunt and other legislators and supported the first Compact the Cherokee negotiated with the state because of the jobs and economic benefits it promised. Since that time, she has witnessed first-hand the transformation of the area into a world-class entertainment and tourism destination. She visited the area during the construction of the hotel expansion, and she dedicated their new golf course.”
“This transformation has led to new hotels, new restaurants and other businesses that have meant many jobs for the region. Under the right circumstances, she supports expanding the Compact because of the potential job growth and other economic benefits to the Cherokee and all of the citizens of North Carolina.”
A study released by the UNC Kenan Flagler School of Business related that Harrah’s Cherokee Casino & Hotel pours over $380 million into the area economy annually.
“On behalf of the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians, I would like to thank the members of the General Assembly for offering the opportunity to formally consider an agreement between Governor Perdue and the Tribe regarding amendments to the existing Tribal-State Gaming Compact,” said Principal Chief Michell Hicks who noted that the intent of any amendments would be to offer table games.
“The addition of live dealers to the casino would provide an estimated 400 new jobs and further enhance our ability to continue providing economic opportunities throughout our region,” Chief Hicks related. “Additionally, members of the Eastern Band would be entitled to increases in their per capita payments, affording them the ability to better provide for their families and community.”
The Civitas Institute released a poll on Thursday, July 28 stating that sixty-four percent (64%) of North Carolina voters support the idea of the casino having live dealers for blackjack and poker.
“This shows very strong voter support for allowing the Cherokee Nation to negotiate a new compact with North Carolina to allow Las Vegas style gambling,” said Francis De Luca, Civitas Institute president. “At a minimum, this poll shows that the lure of jobs outweighs concerns over the social costs. This could be another sign of how much North Carolina has changed demographically and socially.”
Out of the 64 percent, a total of 38 percent related that they “strongly support” the idea and an additional 26 percent said they “somewhat support” live dealers. In opposition, 7 percent “somewhat oppose” and 19 percent “strongly oppose” with 10 percent saying they either don’t know or have no opinion on the issue.
Civitas related that the poll was conducted by National Research, Inc. of Holmdel, NJ of 600 registered North Carolina voters.
Chief Hicks also related, “I would like to offer my sincere appreciation to Governor Perdue and her staff for their willingness to discuss the expansion of table games at the casino. I look forward to finalizing a negotiated agreement in a timely manner so that we may be well prepared to present an amended Tribal Gaming Compact at the start of the Sept. 12 legislative session.”