Harrah’s Cherokee Casino was the site of the recently ended North Carolina Republican Convention—even though the GOP platform opposes gambling. However, delegates did change their platform statement—”We oppose gambling, including the state lottery”—to include a phrase affirming “the rights of the individual” to gamble. About 1,000 Republicans from across the state attended.
Softening the platform language led to a brief floor fight as the delegate who proposed the amendment praised the casino’s economic impact and said, “For us to make a platform that kills jobs is against our Republican way of life.” A delegate from Mecklenburg County responded, “There are many people down below us right now with their lives being ruined. This is not how we grow our economy in North Carolina.”
The casino is owned by the 15,000-member Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians, operated by Caesars Entertainment and regulated by the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act of 1988. The law specifies that gaming revenue must be used to fund tribal government operations or programs, provide for the welfare of the tribe and promote economic development.
Opened in 1997, the casino offers 150,000 square feet of gaming space with 3,600 slot machines and 130 tables. The gaming compact signed by former Governor Bev Perdue in 2011 gives a percentage of the revenue from the table games, estimated at $2 million to $3 million a year, to public education. The casino employs nearly 2,500 people with a payroll of $96 million.
The Eastern Band and Caesars Entertainment will open Cherokee Valley River Casino in Cherokee County a year from now, according to company officials. Last September, the Catawba Indian Nation filed an application with the U.S. Department of Interior to build a casino west of Charlotte in Kings Mountain.