On May 20, the Eastern Band of the Cherokee Nation and Caesars Entertainment, Inc. celebrated their continued relationship for an additional seven years at Harrah's Cherokee Casino & Hotel in southwestern North Carolina.
The renewed contract grants Harrah's North Carolina Casino Company, LLC, a subsidiary of? Caesars, the exclusive right and obligation to develop, manage, operate ?and maintain the casino operation. The tribe and Caesars first inked a management agreement in June 1996 that lasted five years. Amended in 1999 and extended until November 2004, it was then renewed for an additional seven years.
“I know we’ve taken great risks, but we’ve also seen great rewards,” said Principal Chief Michell Hicks of the Eastern Band of the Cherokee Nation at the ceremony, reported Cherokee One Feather. “We wanted to make sure we put a product out that customers would enjoy. Our decision was to make sure that we kept up with the market.”
The occasion marked the official completion of the first phase of the ?hotel's three-year $650 million expansion. As the largest hospitality ?expansion project underway in the southeast and the sixth largest? construction project in the United States, Harrah's Cherokee aims to become the southeast's premiere casino destination and a world-class entertainment resort. Harrah's Cherokee Casino & Hotel will also offer the greatest number ?of hotel rooms in North Carolina.
The resort hotel pumped about $343 million into the North Carolina economy? during 2009 in the form of vendor payments, payroll, charitable? contributions, preservation fund and tribal distribution, according to the casino's press release. “The gaming industry as a whole is down 2 percent, but Harrah’s Cherokee net distributable is up almost 10 percent," Chief Hicks said, reported Cherokee One Feather.
At the celebration, Chief Hicks addressed the tribe's efforts to bring live dealers to Harrah’s Cherokee Hotel and Casino, which is currently limited to to electronic gambling by the state, reported Smoky Mountain News. The tribe continues to lobby Gov. Bev Perdue to allow live card dealers at Harrah’s, stated the local newspaper.
Negotiations for live dealers and table games, such as slots, craps, roulette and more, stalled last year when a video poker company filed a lawsuit against the state, claiming the governor did not hold the legal rights to negotiate gambling freedom with the state, reported Smoky Mountain News.
“I’d like to think that we would offer a full-service casino experience,” said Harrah’s General Manager Darold Londo. “With our proximity to Atlanta and Charlotte and Knoxville, where you have people that fly to other places to play those games, if we offered those things they could come to Cherokee instead.”
As a part of the extension agreement, Harrah’s also agreed to purchase a $1.2 million MRI machine for the Cherokee Indian Hospital. Harrah's will "fund the ongoing maintenance of that machine for seven years," Chief Hicks said. View a clip of his speech about the MRI machine: