The Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians Tribal Council has funded the due diligence on its possible purchase of the Caesars Southern Indiana casino. But tribal council members also approved another initiative to help the nation expand into commercial gaming.
At its Nov. 12 meeting, the council approved the creation of a limited liability company that EBCI will use to pursue opportunities in the commercial gaming sector.
“The overarching goal of such opportunities will be to build profitable companies that will expand the breadth and depth of the Tribe’s revenue sources, and by those actions, increase the financial security of the Tribe for the benefit of its members,” the resolution states.
Currently, the Tribe owns two casinos in western North Carolina. Caesars Entertainment operates both of those under the Harrah’s brand.
While he declined to comment on the potential deal for Caesars Southern Indiana, EBCI Principal Chief Richard Sneed offered some details to Casino.org earlier this week about the tribe’s plans for commercial gaming.
Sneed said the Eastern Band is always looking for ways to expand its gaming portfolio, whether through new developments or acquisitions.
Our objective is to be able to offer the same benefits that we enjoy now to the next seven generations of Cherokees,” he told Casino.org. “Our top 3 priorities are health care, education – Primary, Secondary, and Post-Secondary – and Housing.”
The primary reason why EBCI wants to expand its gaming operations is that its position as the dominant player in its region is being challenged on more than one front.
Casinos are coming to neighboring Virginia, with one slated for Bristol, which is about 100 miles away. While EBCI pursued developing a casino there, Virginia’s law allowing casinos did not mandate cities to seek bids for the license. Bristol officials chose to work with local developers, who partnered with Hard Rock International.
“That is a situation that we had no control over,” Sneed said.
Another casino is being built just a couple of hours away in Kings Mountain, N.C., and that’s one EBCI is fighting in court.
The Catawba Indian Nation, which has a reservation in South Carolina, is building a $273 million casino resort just outside of Charlotte after receiving authorization from the Department of the Interior. The Cherokee tribe is challenging that decision in federal court.
Sneed called the issue “highly politicized.” A Yahoo News report from last month noted that Republican South Carolina US Sen. Lindsey Graham, who had opposed previous attempts by Catawba to offer gaming in their recognized state, backed the Kings Mountain plan after receiving campaign contributions after casino developer Wallace Cheves contributed to Graham’s re-election campaign.
“The EBCI has no issue with the Catawba gaming in their own state of South Carolina, as their settlement agreement provides for,” he said. “What has happened with the land being taken into trust for the purpose of gaming in another state is unprecedented. We are confident that we will prevail based on the merits of our case.”
While the Eastern Band looks to expand its enterprise, it’s also getting closer to offering more gaming at its North Carolina casinos.
After negotiating with North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper’s office for more than a year, Sneed said it appears the two sides have reached a breakthrough on a new compact agreement that will enable the EBCI casinos to offer sports betting.
“We hope to be able to open our sportsbook sometime after the first of the year,” he said.
North Carolina lawmakers passed a sports betting bill last year that allows tribal casinos to offer sports betting. But it does not allow online applications.