In the lush landscapes of North Carolina, the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians (EBCI) is entering a new chapter of growth with Harrah’s Cherokee Valley River Casino & Hotel’s colossal expansion project. Tribal officials have confirmed that this ambitious endeavor, costing $275 million, is moving ahead with vigor.
Since its inauguration in 2015, Harrah’s Cherokee Valley River has been a secondary attraction, augmenting the allure of the Tribe’s flagship establishment, Harrah’s Cherokee. Nestled approximately 40 miles southeast of its sibling, the younger facility is poised for a transformative upgrade to its resort facilities with a stark enhancement of its casino and gaming offerings.
Lumpy Lambert, the General Manager of Harrah’s Cherokee Valley River, amid discussions with Cherokee One Feather, the media voice of the EBCI, has revealed the rapid progress of the construction. He anticipates that the expanded casino, boasting additional square footage, will welcome patrons by mid-2024, with the hotel’s grand opening expected to follow shortly thereafter in late 2024.
This expansion will see the birth of an additional 25,000 square feet graced by 400 fresh slot machines, a dozen table games, and a premiere 10-table World Series of Poker room. The vicinity will also be complemented by a centrally positioned casino bar offering 14 tabletop spots for guests’ enjoyment. Beyond gaming, visitors can expect the luxury of nearly 300 new guest rooms within a spanking new hotel tower, a welcoming indoor pool, a fitness center, a sprawling parking garage with space for 1,700 vehicles, and an indulgent full-service spa and salon.
The initiative is a strategic move to enhance the appeal of southwestern North Carolina. The region depends greatly on tourism, especially visitors from nearby Tennessee and Georgia, states that have yet to establish their own casinos. Lambert highlighted the foresight of the expansion plans laid out eight years back, underlining the golden opportunity to grow and penetrate the market further.
With the opening of the new facilities, approximately 100 permanent job opportunities will arise, contributing significantly to the EBCI’s flourishing economy. According to Lambert, these developments are set to benefit Tribal programs and provide financial distributions for enrolled members, ensuring that the expansion aligns seamlessly with EBCI’s core objectives for economic and social advancement.
The EBCI, alongside the Catawba Indian Nation, currently enjoys a state-sanctioned monopoly on casino gaming, based on their Class III gaming compacts. Efforts by state legislators in Raleigh to introduce commercial casinos have recently stalled but are anticipated to reignite in the next legislative cycle.
Despite ongoing discussions in the state capital, the domestic landscape of betting is evolving. With state lawmakers legalizing commercial sports betting, the once tight grip the Tribes held over this niche is loosening. Professional sports stadiums and NASCAR, along with the PGA Tour, are now poised to operate retail sportsbooks and offer online wagering through partnerships. The concern arises that with the introduction of online sports betting, tribal casinos might see a migration of bets from their land-based establishments to the digital realm.
As this shift to online platforms presents a new frontier in gambling, it invites patrons to explore the virtual sphere. In states with legalized online betting, ample evidence suggests that an overwhelming majority of wagering activities are occurring in the digital domain. With this in mind, the question remains: how will traditional casinos evolve to maintain their competitive edge in this rapidly changing atmosphere?
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