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Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians of North Carolina


Gov. Jim Hunt and Cherokee Chief Leon Jones signed an agreement Nov. 14 in Raleigh that would allow the band to expand the Harrah's Cherokee Smoky Mountains Casino. It also will extend the life of its gambling compact 30 years. Knight-Ridder Newspapers reported the tribe pays Harrah's Entertainment an undisclosed sum to run the casino which has no live dealers - only machines. The casino, which opened in 1997, has 2,500 gambling machines and 1,500 employees. Tribal leaders say the deal, which still must be approved by the U.S. Interior Department, would double employees and machines. "Right now we have so many people that's coming in, and we have to turn 'em away because we don't have any space," Vice Chief Carroll Crowe said. A foundation will be active in protecting the environment, promoting tribal culture and implementing so-called "smart growth'' principles to protect the surrounding area. "For a long time our people were in the poverty area," Crowe said. "It hasn't pulled us totally out, but it makes us proud to see our people go buy a new TV and refrigerator. It's something usable in the household, and that just makes us feel good."