By SCOTT MCKIE B.P.
ONE FEATHER STAFF
Table games may be on the way to Cherokee. Gov. Bev Perdue and Principal Chief Michell Hicks have come to an agreement on a new gaming compact between the State of North Carolina and the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians.
The 30-year agreement allows Harrah’s Cherokee Casino & Hotel to provide live table games and grants the Tribe sole rights to provide those games west of I-26.
“The Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians values our partnership with the State of North Carolina and this gaming compact demonstrates the commitment we have to providing economic opportunities for our state,” said Chief Hicks on Monday. “We are confident the addition of live dealers will bring more jobs to the region and will provide another dimension to our resort operation. The new visitors to our improved gaming facility will have a tremendous effect on the economy of western North Carolina. I would like to thank Governor Beverly Perdue for her support of this new compact. I would also like to thank the leadership of the General Assembly who have been instrumental their support of our efforts toward expansion. We are excited to execute the compact and look forward to presenting it to the general assembly as soon as possible.”
The Tribe will give the state a percentage of gross receipts from the table games that will increase incrementally as such:
– 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
– 8 percent for the next ten years.
All of the money received by the state will go directly toward North Carolina public schools.
Gov. Perdue said in a statement, “My top priorities are strengthening our schools and creating jobs, and this agreement does both. This will mean additional dollars going directly to school districts, and it will provide an economic boost for western North Carolina. I urge the General Assembly to act so that we can quickly start receiving the benefits of this expansion.”
It appears as though the support is there in the General Assembly. On a trip to Cherokee in August, State Sen. Phil Berger (R-Guilford, Rockingham), the President Pro Tempore in the State Senate, and State Sen. Tom Apodaca (R-Buncombe, Henderson, Polk) assured that the votes are there in the Senate to approve such a measure.
“There’s bipartisan support in the Senate,” Berger told the One Feather. “The votes are there.”
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.
The original Class III gaming compact between the Tribe and the state was approved on Aug. 11, 1994 and entered into the federal register on Oct. 3, 1994. It was signed by former Principal Chief Jonathan L. Taylor and former Governor James B. Hunt, Jr.
An amendment was made to the compact two years later on May 28, 1996 and entered into the federal register on July 9, 1996. It was signed by former Principal Chief Joyce Dugan and former Governor James B. Hunt, Jr.
The second amendment to the compact was approved on Nov. 14, 2000 and entered into the federal register on Jan. 17, 2001. This amendment, among other things, raised the gambling age to 21 and established the Cherokee Preservation Foundation. It was signed by the late former Principal Chief Leon D. Jones and former Governor James B. Hunt, Jr.