Raleigh, N.C. — The House Appropriations subcommittee on Natural and Economic Resources Committee just passed S 582, which would allow the Eastern Band of Cherokees to offer live table games at the casino on their tribal lands.
"This is not simply about gambling," Principal Chief Michelle Hicks told the committee. "This is about creating a resource to help a people." Money from the existing automate casino has helped build schools and raise the standard of living both on tribal lands and elsewhere in western North Carolina.
The bill, which has already passed the Senate, next goes to the House Commerce Committee and then, most likely, on to the floor of the House. Backers say they expect the measure to pass by the end of this week or early next week.
It got one tweak in Tuesday night's meeting. The number of casinos with live dealers the tribe can open was limited to three. Earlier versions of the bill would have set no limit.
Rep. Mark Hilton, R-Catawba, spoke against the measure, saying that increasing gambling would increase social ills.
"It increases rates of divorce, crime, drug use, alcohol addiction ... all the negative type of things you don't want to happen in your state is going to happen right here," Hilton said.
But other lawmakers spoke up for the tribe as a good steward of their current casino, which offers electronic games but no live dealers.
"We're replacing machines with 400 people right off the bat," said Sen. Tom Apodaca, R-Henderson. "We need those jobs dearly."