Casino Planned For Cherokee County
by John Madewell
A new law makes live poker, black jack and roulette available within a three hour drive to North Carolina.
That same agreement opens the door for even closer gambling.
North Carolina and the Eastern Band of the Cherokee Nation have agreed to live casino dealers at Harrah's in the town of Cherokee, North Carolina.
And the table's now open for a new casino in Cherokee County just across the Polk County, TN line.
Steve Coleman lives in Murphy and is 1/16th Cherokee. He has also been involved in acquiring the land for the proposed casino in Marble.
Coleman motions to a forested peak off of Highway 74 and explains the plan, "It's going to go back in there because it's on trust land. The tribe brought this front part so we could have access to the trust land."
The casino itself has to be on trust land. Coleman says there are two tracts of "trust land." One is 205 acres, the other is 250 acres. The tribe bought another roughly 340 acres to provide highway, rail and direct entrance to the proposed casino.
"It means a whole lot to us as far as being able to have another gaming facility."
But there is opposition in Cherokee County and neighboring Polk County. Carol McPherson opposes the casino morally and for financial reasons. "It takes money away from families."
Yvette Welch also stands against the casino. Welch said, "Health care, education reform, we've got a lot more issues and not only in Polk County, North Carolina, Georgia, but all across the United States."
The compact also opens the table for live dealers at Harrah's in the town of Cherokee, which is about an hour down the road.
Supporters say that move will bring in 400 jobs. Back at the proposed Marble casino, in Cherokee County, live dealers will not work the floor at first but may down the road.
Snowbird council member Diamond Brown said long range plans envision a resort destination. The compact allows two more casinos in the Eastern Band of the Cherokee Nation.
Tribal chief Michell Hicks said Marble is first priority. Coleman is good friends with the chief and his father used to be a tribal council member.
He knows the 796 acres of land well and believes a casino will add a major boost to the local economy. "It'll mean a whole lot. When you start bringing in gaming, I'm not so big on the gaming, but it's going to bring a lot of jobs with it."
The U.S. Department of Interior still has to sign off on the compact but that is expected.
The state receives 4 percent of gross receipts in the first five years. That percentage progressively rises up to 8 percent over the last 10 years of the compact.
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