TULSA, Okla. – Cherokee Nation Enterprises created more than 200 new jobs and millions in new payroll for the region in 2008. The mix of information technology, marketing, finance and service jobs, among others, generated more than $12.3 million in additional payroll – including wages, taxes and benefits – for northeastern Oklahomans last year.
As detailed in “Where the Casino Money Goes 2009,” the company’s annual report released in June, CNE’s total payroll for 2008 topped $131.7 million and more than 3,400 employees, making it one of the largest employers in the area.
With 3,000 of these jobs created in the last 10 years, Cherokee Nation leadership attributes the sustained growth in tough economic times to its Jobs Growth Act of 2005. The act calls for the reinvestment of all Cherokee Nation-owned business profits, including those from gaming, directly back into its businesses to create jobs for Cherokee citizens.
“The best service that we can provide for our citizens is a job that allows them the opportunity to earn good wages, have benefits and become self-sufficient for themselves and their family,” said Chad Smith, principal chief of the Cherokee Nation. “We don’t spend all the profit as we go or give hand outs. We reinvest the money to keep creating jobs here in northeastern Oklahoma. Back in 1998, we made $1 million in profit from gaming. If we had spent those dollars instead of reinvesting it, we wouldn’t still be creating jobs today.”
CNE’s revenue is $441.2 million with profits surpassing $116 million. Revenue and profit increased $22.6 million and $4.4 million, respectively, from 2007 to 2008.
“We’ve reinvested significantly in our gaming properties in Tulsa and in West Siloam Springs in the last year with new or greatly expanded facilities and offerings. By continuing to invest in this area, we also have a huge impact in our communities through increased construction jobs and spending with our vendors, utility companies, service providers and others,” said David Stewart, Cherokee Nation Enterprises CEO. “We’ll continue to reinvest into our business, provide top-notch guest service, offer the entertainment choices our guests want, and reward loyal guests with amenities at all of our properties. This is why we have always been the market leader, and will continue to be.”
“Gaming is a tool to create self-sufficiency for Cherokees, whether that self-sufficiency is achieved through creating jobs or employing local vendors,” Smith said. “Either way, the jobs and the money stay right here in our local communities.”
Even with the continued focus on reinvestment in jobs, Cherokee Casinos have also been able to provide record amounts of funding for Cherokee Nation social services to its citizens. The Jobs Growth Act of 2005 states that 70 percent of the casinos’ profits are reinvested into job creation with the remaining 30 percent paid directly to the Cherokee Nation. The tribe uses these funds for important social and community services such as health care, education, roads and housing. Funding to the Cherokee Nation in 2008 was nearly $35 million, up more than $1 million over the previous year.
Gaming dollars account for the majority of the Cherokee Nation’s general fund, which finances these vital services. Without support from Cherokee Casinos, services that rely on the tribe’s general fund could be cut by more than half.
CNE’s plans for growth continue into the current fiscal year. Cherokee Casino West Siloam Springs opened in November 2008 after its $108 million expansion. The property includes a 200,000-square-foot gaming floor, a 350-seat Las Vegas-style buffet, a fine dining restaurant, an upscale entertainment venue and Cherokee-inspired architecture.
The $155 million addition to Cherokee Casino Resort, Tulsa, is still underway and set to be complete this summer. The project also includes a re-branding of the casino to the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino. It will feature a new 19-story hotel tower, a Toby Keith’s I Love This Bar and Grill, a Hard Rock-inspired nightclub and a fine dining restaurant on the hotel’s 19th floor. The resort previously opened new gaming space and 30,000 square feet of added convention space.
“Where the Casino Money Goes 2009” reports are being distributed through the Cherokee Nation tribal newspaper, the Cherokee Phoenix, during the month of July. In addition, copies are made available all year long at all Cherokee Casinos, Cherokee Nation retail outlets, hotels, hospitals, clinics and tag offices, as well as the W. W. Keeler Cherokee Nation tribal complex in Tahlequah and the Cherokee Nation official Web site.