Amid planning issues and timing concerns, the Tribal Council of the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians narrowly rejected a resolution that would have squashed an expansion project at its Harrah’s Cherokee Casino Resort, according to the Smoky Mountain News.
An 8-3 vote by the Council on January 17 gave the Tribal Casino Gaming Enterprise, the body which oversees the Cherokee, North Carolina casino resort, the green light to borrow as much as $250 million to add a fourth hotel tower, a new parking deck, and a 100,000 sq. ft. convention center.
That approval, however, nearly met its demise this month when some council members, who apparently had second thoughts regarding the decision, was enough to merit the Feb. 2 consideration of a resolution from Birdtown Councilmember Albert Rose. Rose reportedly told the Council that see had not seen a plan for the project and that “With an amount like that, you need to see a plan,” She added, “There’s a lot of unanswered questions about the hotel part, why we’re still going to have to contract rooms out,” according to the news agency. Had the vote not ended evenly, the decision to approve the project would have been overturned. Rose was one of the people in the original vote, which translated to a 69-24 approval, who were in favor of the expansion plan.
The only three nay votes came from Councilmember Adam Wachacha, of Snowbird; Councilmember Bo Crowe, of Wolfetown; and Vice Chairman Brandon Jones, of Snowbird. Not present for the vote was Councilmember Teresa McCoy, of Big Cove.
In addition to timing and planning concerns, the Tribal Council was divided on the question regarding Harrah’s two parking decks failures over the past two years. Harrah’s regional vice president of marketing, Leeann Bridges, said that Harrah’s had independent engineers examine the structure after the failures and that improvements were made to structures at every deck level in order to ensure that repeat failures would not occur, according to the report. Both of the failed decks were reportedly constructed by the same company, which Harrah’s is currently in litigation with.
The 50-50 vote resulted in the death of the resolution and the continuation of the project. According to the news agency, however, a work session to discuss the expansion will likely be scheduled by Council.
Commenting on the council members concerns regarding the facility’s potential for profit and possible forthcoming unfavorable policies by the Trump administration, Bridges said that their questions were very good but that Harrah’s is “very, very confident” that the cost of expansion would be supported by its business. “We have to keep improving so we stay competitive in our environment, the entertainment industry,” Bridges added, “That’s what we’re charged with, and we’re always going to go through these steps and make recommendations on solid projects. Our role is to answer questions and do our best to assuage any fears about is this the right thing to do for the tribe.”
Meanwhile, in anticipation of a September opening for the new 52,000-square-foot bowling complex currently under construction at the North Carolina casino resort, Harrah’s has signed a management agreement with UltraStar, which is part of Dynamic Entertainment Group. In addition to 24 bowling lanes, the two-story facility will offer full-service dining and a 50-game arcade.