By JOSEPH MARTIN
ONE FEATHER STAFF
The Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians’ last per capita distribution set a record as the largest, and that was due to the performance of Harrah’s Cherokee Casino Resort in Cherokee and Harrah’s Cherokee Valley River Casino and Hotel in Murphy. That’s significant particularly since revenue exceeded expectations for 2018 in comparison to 2017.
“The fiscal year ending Sept. 30, exceeded our original projections with regards to tribal distribution,” said Brian Saunooke, Harrah’s Cherokee regional vice president of marketing. “We expected a fairly flat year compared to 2017, but instead saw distribution to the Tribe grow by 7.8 percent compared to 2017. We expect next year’s distribution to be flat with 2018’s.”
Saunooke said that distribution at the Cherokee property, which accounts for 76 percent of the total distribution, grew 4.7 percent over 2017. Valley River, which provides 24 percent of the tribal distribution, grew at nearly 19 percent.
According to a statement from Harrah’s Cherokee Advertising and Public Relations Supervisor Michael Fisher, the casinos have paid 3,500 employees more than $180 million in salaries, wages and benefits, and area vendors were paid more than $38 million in contracts. While both properties have a hotel attached, Cherokee and Valley River contracted with area hotels for more than 47,000 rooms.
The two casinos through their volunteer work have made an impact in Cherokee and Murphy areas as well. Fisher said that when the first property opened 21 years ago, it intended to make a difference. “Harrah’s Cherokee Casinos made the decision on what kind of difference they wanted to make, and 2018 further embodied their willingness and dedication in making a positive impact in their communities, to their environment and to their employees,” he said.
More than 115,000 volunteer hours were logged by employees, according to Fisher. Organizations like the Manna Food Bank, Valley River Humane Society, Paws Animal Shelter of Bryson City, REACH of Cherokee County (an organization providing services to domestic violence victims), Pathways Homeless Shelter of Waynesville and Habitat for Humanity benefitted from those hours.
Jo Ray, Regional Vice President of Community Relations and Employee Wellness, is proud of the philanthropic work by employees at Harrah’s Cherokee Casinos. “Each year, employees continue to increase their volunteerism in many diverse areas within our communities. This accentuates our commitment to community outreach,” said Ray. “Our employees truly care about their local communities and we are proud to have them as members of our family at Harrah’s Cherokee Casinos.”
The casinos also donated to the Cherokee Indian Fair, Cherokee Indian Hospital Foundation and Toys For Tots.