COMMENTARY: Hiding in Plain Sight; Is there Sex Trafficking at the Casino?

by Oct 29, 2023OPINIONS0 comments


One Feather reporter


Rumors have been circulating for years now that there is sex trafficking at the Harrah’s Cherokee Casino Resort. We hear horror stories of Cherokee teenagers and young women trafficked at our casino, often in connection with the drug trafficking that is proven to exist and permeate our community. But still, there is no real evidence of sex trafficking. Where are the numbers? Where are the cases? Where are the arrests and convictions? There are zero.

FBI Knoxville Division special agent is referenced in WBIR News characterizing Interstate 40 as “a convenient corridor for sex traffickers.” North Carolina is ranked No. 9 in the U.S. for human trafficking cases according to a 2020 statistics report from the National Human Trafficking Hotline. The report also states that hotel-based commercial sex trafficking is North Carolina’s leading form of trafficking. We know without question that sex trafficking exists in North Carolina.

Tribal Gaming and Hospitality Magazine released an article from Derk Boss, Director of Surveillance for Angel of the Winds Casino Resort owned by the Stillaguamish Tribe of Indians near Arlington, Washington, detailing the prevalence of sex trafficking in casino and a list of signs to detect traffickers in casinos. The Department of Homeland Security’s campaign against human trafficking, the Blue Campaign, released a 2023 toolkit in collaboration with the National Indian Gaming Commission and the U.S. Department of the Interior titled “Human Trafficking Response Guide for the Tribal Gaming and Hospitality Industry.” We also know without question that sex trafficking exists in tribal casinos.

What proof do we have that sex trafficking exists in our casino, beyond stories that keep us up at night? We know it exists in our state and in other casinos. We would be naïve to believe it doesn’t exist in our casino. Where there’s smoke, there’s fire, right? So, where are the statistics for our women and children?

What do you think? Is there something insidious and sinister hiding within the velvet walls of our casino?

There are resources and information to combat sex trafficking in our casino—if it exists, of course. Let us be proactive in saving our women and children and ensuring that our cases of Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls do not rise. Read the 2023 toolkit from the Department of Homeland Security Blue Campaign to educate yourself on the issue of sex trafficking in casinos: Human Trafficking Response Guide for the Tribal Gaming and Hospitality Industry (

We also have lots of stories to tell. Share your story. Inform your local government and law enforcement. Our voices, together, can call attention to whatever this darkness is that whispers throughout our community. Call it out it and cast it out.