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Harrah’s Cherokee Casinos Giving North Carolina Communities a Financial Boost

Sign Outside of Harrah's Las Vegas
A sign outside of a Harrah's hotel-casino. Ethan Miller/Getty Images/AFP

Two of the three tribal casinos in North Carolina are owned by the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians of North Carolina, Harrah’s Cherokee Casino Resort and Harrah’s Cherokee Valley River Casino, and both are paying dividends for the surrounding communities.

Harrah’s Casinos Draw Tourism

It is estimated that Harrah’s Cherokee Casinos attracted 4.2 million tourists to North Carolina, whose ancillary benefits propped up surrounding businesses such as restaurants, shops, and overall economic activity.

Some of the revenues from those casinos were dispersed as follows:

  • Contributions – Harrah’s Cherokee Casinos contributed over $206 million to local communities, eclipsing the average per revenue dollar of contributions from other businesses in the state.
  • Wage Hike – Harrah’s Cherokee Casinos paid nearly $130 million in wages and compensation, not including healthcare benefits. Their hourly wage is also higher than the state’s mandated minimum. Tuition/certification reimbursement programs are available to all employees.
  • Keeping it Local – Harrah’s Cherokee Casinos used local vendors whenever possible and spent over $177 million with in-state service and product providers.
  • Charitable Causes – Local charities and causes like WNC Communities, MANNA, Cherokee Indian Hospital Foundation, and NC Senior Games were all part of the over $1 million Harrah’s Cherokee Casinos gifted in FY 23.

Commercial Casino Expansion Shut Down in ‘24

There are currently three tribal casinos in North Carolina but no commercial venues. However, some North Carolina legislators would like to bring outside casino operators, who would be obligated to pay taxes on their adjusted gross revenues, into the state.

We know that online sports betting will be launched at some point in the first half of this year, but one legislator insisted that bringing gaming expansion to North Carolina did not have to begin and end with mobile betting.

Saine’s Argument

Representative Jason Saine believes that more casinos and the introduction of iGaming, or online casino gambling, would provide North Carolina with the additional revenue streams needed to grow a robust economy.

“My fellow lawmakers continue to debate what gaming expansion looks like, but limiting this discussion to just brick-and-mortar casinos is a lot like building new movie theaters without allowing people to stream movies on their mobile devices,” Saine wrote.

Saine added, “Industry experts project that full iGaming would yield nearly $300 million annually for the state – creating a new, reliable revenue stream that broadens the tax base and aligns with the smart fiscal policy the General Assembly has worked diligently to maintain. What’s more, the state would realize iGaming’s tax revenue almost immediately, as opposed to waiting several years for brick-and-mortar casinos to open.”

No Luck

But Democrat Governor Roy Cooper helped doom any pro-casino and iGaming legislation this year with the help of his colleagues, who believe three casinos and online sports betting are enough for now.

Governor Copper posted the following on X, formerly known as Twitter, last September, “GOP demand for passage of their backroom casino deal in exchange for a state budget and Medicaid expansion is the most brutally dishonest legislative scheme I’ve seen in my 3+ decades. People are right to be suspicious. Something has a grip on Republican leaders and it’s not the people of NC. – RC”

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