The band plan to spruce up its 2 1/2-year-old casino with a new 15-story hotel featuring shops and 31,000 square feet of convention space, though some tribal members are uneasy with the rapid growth since the casino opened in November 1997. The planned $60 million project would be built on the tribe's reservation in the Appalachian Mountains next to Harrah's Cherokee Smoky Mountains Casino. The hotel would be the tallest building in the state west of Asheville. Harrah's officials recently told the Cherokee Tribal Council the hotel could generate an estimated $12 million per year. Construction is expected to start this summer and take 14 months. About 300 workers will be added to the casino's 1,500 employees. Moses Walkingstick, 47, said he approves of many of the economic benefits the casino has brought to rank-and-file tribe members, but worries his people will lose touch with their Cherokee culture and identity. "The good Lord gave us different ways to live. I think some are forgetting they are Cherokee people," he said. Most of the tribe's 12,500 members receive about $2,000 twice a year in shared profits from the casino, which attracts nearly 3.5 million visitors annually.
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