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Cherokees-Alcohol – N.C. tribe votes to allow casino alcohol sales

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CHEROKEE, N.C. (AP) – Alcohol sales at a North Carolina mountain casino have been approved by members of the Cherokee Indian Tribe as a way to boost profits used to run tribal government and pay its members.

The Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians approved alcohol sales by 1,847 to 1,301 Thursday after nearly half the tribe’s registered voters went to polls, The Asheville Citizen-Times reported June 5.

The vote was only about alcohol sales at the casino.

Supporters of alcohol sales said it would boost profits at the tribe’s casino. The tribe uses half the profits from the 11-year-old casino to run its government and half for twice-a-year payments to tribal members.

The first of this year’s payments to the tribe’s members were sent June 8 and were down 12 percent. This year the checks were for $3,892. Last year, they were $4,473.

In January, the casino had its first layoffs since it opened. About 100 jobs were cut as the sagging economy reduced visitors 15 percent.

Normal visitation at the casino is about 3.5 million people a year.

The Tribal Casino Gaming Enterprise board officials, who run the casino business for the tribe, had sought the vote and said annual checks to tribe members would double in six years if alcohol was available.

It was the second alcohol sales vote, but the first since the casino was constructed. Tribal members voted 2-1 against alcohol sales in 1980.

“We got to have (alcohol) in order to keep it going,” said tribe member Loretta Crowe. “It is necessary. They have got to have it to survive.”

But a minister’s wife said she worried about the effect alcohol sales could have on the community.

“I believe it will bring more abuses to our reservation,” said Donna Morgan, whose husband is a pastor at Rocksprings Baptist Church. “Not just alcohol abuse, but physical abuse also.”

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