Construction is under way at the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians’ 0 million Cherokee Valley River Casino in Murphy, North Carolina. Scheduled to open in spring 2015, it’s the tribe’s second partnership with Caesars Entertainment. According to the tribe’s gaming division, Tribal Casino Gaming Enterprise, the new casino is expected to generate 0 million in profits in its first year of operation. At the same time, just an hour east in Jackson County, the tribe’s Harrah’s Cherokee Casino is projected to lose million.
However, Cherokee Valley River Casino General Manager Lumpy Lambert said casino officials do not feel the new casino will cannibalize Harrah’s Cherokee. Instead, it will create more gaming options. The new casino is located closer to Atlanta, Chattanooga and Birmingham, he noted.
“We have a lot of known Caesars customers in the region that haven’t visited Cherokee. We still have the opportunity to capture untapped visitation, and being closer to those major markets should help,” Lambert said.
Hopes are high that the new casino will drive the economy in far western North Carolina as Harrah’s Cherokee did farther east. A study by the Kenan-Flagler Business School at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill done in June 2011 estimated Harrah’s Cherokee contributed $300 million annually to Jackson and Swain counties. The report indicated in 2009 the casino had 1,647 employees, or 5 percent of all employment in the counties, with a payroll of $74.8 million, or 8 percent of all wage and salary disbursements in the counties. The new casino and 300-room hotel will employ 800-900 people with a payroll of $32 million-$39 million.
The new casino also will feature a 108,000-square-foot gaming floor with up to 1,200 slot machines and 75 table games. Executive and managerial positions will be filled later this year, Lambert said, and dealers and other live-table staff will be hired in the third quarter to accommodate a 12-week training period.
Whiting Turner Contracting Company and Owle Construction LLC are the contractors for the project. The architectural firm Cuningham Group Architecture Inc. also worked on Harrah’s Cherokee Casino.