Local News

More Types Of Gambling May Come To Cherokee Casino

Posted January 25, 2006 8:18 a.m. EST

— Back in the 1990s, the Cherokee Indians signed a compact with former Gov. Jim Hunt to legalize video gambling on their reservation. Now, they're negotiating with Gov. Mike Easley for more.

Even with only video gambling, the Harrah's Casino in the North Carolina mountains generates more than $150 million in profit each year for the Eastern Band of the Cherokee Nation. After reservation improvements, that means each tribal member gets a check for about $6,000.

Now, the Cherokee hope to build on the casino's success with real cards and live Vegas style games.

"Once the Legislature passed the lottery, the moral boundary was crossed," said N.C. Family Policy Council representative John Rustin.

The Family Policy Council opposes the lottery and any effort to expand legalized gambling in the state. Rustin believes it opens the door for addiction and crime. Plus, he doesn't think Easley has the authority to alter the state's compact with the Cherokee.

"We certainly don't think that's an enterprise that North Carolina and our government ought to enter into," said Rustin.

Cherokee leaders, instead, see financial opportunity for the tribe and the state. They say live games would draw more tourists and add hundreds of new jobs.

Easley has indicated the state is getting a portion of the casino profits could be up for discussion.

Principal Chief Michell Hicks sounded optimistic on Wednesday after a meeting about the issue.

"We had a very good meeting with the governor's staff. There are still a few things to work out. We hope to see positive changes in Cherokee by the spring," Hicks said.

Hicks would not elaborate on what changes he expected by the spring. Easley's office confirmed negotiations are ongoing, but had no other comment.