Operator Michell Hicks

Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians

Cherokee, NC 28719

Based in Oklahoma, the Tribe would open its first casino in 1997.

History 

The Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians (EBCI) descended from a group of Cherokee Indians who lived along the Oconaluftee River, located in the Great Smoky Mountains. After the group managed to escape the Trail of Tears, they moved west to Indian Territory in 1839. They would then buy back the Qualla Boundary land and gain federal recognition in the 20th century.

The Qualla Boundary is a fragment of the original homeland but is not a tribal reservation. Instead, it is a land trust which is supervised by the Bureau of Indian Affairs.

The Tribe’s gaming history began in 1994, after the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians proposed a deal with the State of North Carolina, following the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act several years prior. This would see the Tribe granted a Class III gaming license. The Tribe would open Harrah’s Cherokee on November 13, 1997, which would be managed and operated by Caesars Entertainment. 

Tribal Government

The Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians is currently led by Principal Chief Michell Hicks and Vice Chief Alan Ensley. As part of this, the EBCI founded the Cherokee Tribal Gaming Commission in 1989 and developed it as an independent agency in 1994 under Chapter 16 of the Cherokee Code.

The Cherokee Gaming Commission is tasked with ensuring the fairness and integrity of gaming activities offered by establishments owned by the tribe. The Commission is also responsible for ensuring compliance and regulations in three different gaming properties; Harrah’s Cherokee Casino Resort, Harrah’s Cherokee Valley River and the Cherokee Tribal Bingo Facility.

Tribal gaming operations

Harrah’s Cherokee Casino Resort

Harrah’s Cherokee Casino Resort is located on the Qualla Boundary in Cherokee, North Carolina. The property was announced in 1994 and would open to the public on November 13, 1997. The building covers over 150,000 sq ft and has a range of amenities.

The casino has over 3,000 slots, which cover a range of denominations and titles, including Buffalo, Monopoly, 88 Fortunes and Wheel of Fortune. There are more than 160 table games, with classics such as Blackjack, Roulette and Craps. A relatively recent addition, Harrah’s Cherokee also installed a Caesars Sportsbook at the property, which has a 90-foot-wide screen and three Fan Caves.

The Harrah’s Cherokee Event Center is located in the resort and is a 3,000-seat venue that hosts music, comedy and performance acts. These have included Dolly Parton, Alicia Keys and Cirque Musica. The UltraStar Multi-tainment Center also has a range of entertainment amenities, including bowling and esports leagues.

The Harrah’s Cherokee Casino Resort also offers a Mandara Spa for guests, as well as pools and the Sequoyah National Golf Club

Harrah’s Cherokee Valley River

Harrah’s Cherokee Valley River is located in the Qualla Boundary in Murphy, North Carolina. The project was proposed in 2014 and opened on September 28, 2015, for a cost of $110m. The building covers 50,000 sq ft. 

The casino at Harrah’s Cherokee Valley River has over 1,000 slots, from classic styles up to video poker. Denominations range from 1¢ slots up to $100 and there are progressives in play at the property.

There are 60+ table games available, offering Blackjack, Roulette and Craps, Mississippi Stud and Three Card Poker. 

Similar to the other Harrah’s Cherokee property, this casino also has a Caesars Sportsbook installed. The service has a 32ft wide screen, betting kiosks and staffed windows.

Cherokee Tribal Bingo Facility

The Cherokee Tribal Bingo Hall closed in 2021, following difficulties from events such as Covid-19.

Renovations

Harrah’s Cherokee Casino Resort

In 2002, the first renovation was completed in this year, which saw the gaming floor expanded by 22,025 sq ft. In addition, a similar amount of space was created for convention space and a hotel room was built, which had 252 rooms. 

Later, in 2005, the second renovation expanded the hotel amenities, with a second 15-story tower and 320 rooms

The next major renovation began in 2009 and concluded in 2013 and cost $650m to complete. First of all, a third hotel tower was added to the property, which was 21 stories high and had 532 rooms and five suites. The gaming space was doubled up to its modern-day coverage of 150,000sq ft. An events center was also opened, which would allow the casino to host poker tournaments, fairs and small concerts. As part of this, a 16,000 sq ft spa was also opened, as well as a retail and hospitality area.

The most recent addition to the casino began in 2018 and was completed in 2021, costing $250m. This would see a fourth hotel tower constructed, with 19 stories, 725 rooms and seven suites. Another convention center with a ballroom was built, along with a new terrace pool and fitness center.

Harrah’s Cherokee Valley River

At the same time as Harrah’s Cherokee Casino Resort was constructing its most recent renovation, this property received a $13m expansion that covered a 41,000 sq ft entertainment area, with non-gambling amenities such as bowling and arcade games.

Later, in 2021, the casino started a $275m expansion, which will see a new hotel tower, spa and indoor pool, restaurants and gaming space. It’s anticipated that this will open during 2024 and will include 296 rooms, 300 slot machines, eight additional table games, a poker room, a 22-seat casino center bar and a 1,500-space parking deck.

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