North Carolina Senate Votes To Make Poker Live At Cherokee Casino
Earlier this week, the North Carolina Senate took up discussion on whether to allow the only casino located in the state, Harrah’s Cherokee Casino in Cherokee, NC, to have live dealers for their table games, such as poker and blackjack.
After the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians, who operate the Cherokee Casino, and Governor Beverly Perdue came to an agreement back in November 2011 to open up for “live” gaming, the North Carolina General Assembly still had to pass legislation that would allow for the changes to take place. On Wednesday, the Senate introduced the appropriate legislation and passed it by a 33-14 vote, taking the next step to ratify the gaming agreement between the tribe and the state by sending the bill to the House.
The major part of the legislation was to allow for the Cherokee Casino to utilize live dealers rather than video tables that were authorized under the previous legislation. For both poker and blackjack, the video tables made by the Matthews, NC, based company PokerTek had been long used by the Cherokee Casino. The PokerPro tables, in particular, have had a love/hate relationship by players who miss the essence of a “live” dealer and chips but like the factor of a speeded up game.
The new legislation has been something that has been discussed by the tribe and the state since 2006, but it hasn’t come to fruition until now. It would more than likely end the usage of the PokerTek tables and create new jobs in the casino. Approximately 400 jobs would be created under the new guidelines, something that would help out in the current economy. It would also help out both the Cherokee Indians and the state through new revenues.
The agreement, which is a 30-year compact, would have the Cherokee Casino share revenues from the live games with the state. The initial revenue sharing would start at four percent and eventually go up to eight percent. The $1.2 million dollars per year that the early years of the deal would bring to the state wouldn’t have much effect on their $20 billion budget, the additional revenues from employment would add to their take.
Unfortunately, there have been opponents of the proposal to go live at the Cherokee Casino. Reverend Mark Creech, the director of the Christian Action League, stated to the Columbus Republic, “When the government seeks to profit from gambling, it becomes the house, which means it has a vested interest against its own people…It was wrong when we did it with the lottery and now we are compounding our sins (by increasing casino gaming).”
One of the elected officials for the area, Senator Tom Apodaca of Henderson, didn’t see any issues with the new legislation. “What the bill simply does is allow the Cherokee Indians to use live dealers where they use machines now,” he said. As to those who are against the new gaming options due to their allegations of problem gaming and other factors, Apodaca put his position firmly on the map by saying, “Human beings should be allowed to make their own choices in life.”
The new live option at the Cherokee Casino could increase revenues at the facility. After the casino opened in 1998, gambling revenues were $128 million and continually climbed from there to a high of $449 million in 2008. After the economic downturn of that year, the Cherokee Casino has seen their revenues fall to about $378 million in 2010. And it is the gambling that drives the Cherokee Casino; revenues for 2010 from non-gaming segments of the casino (food, hotel and retail) only totaled $13 million.
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