North Carolina is trying to secure a hold on its gamblers. Even though the gaming industry seems to be growing slower than usual, the Cherokee tribe wants to try their luck and open a second casino. Their first North Carolina-based casino opened on September 28th of this year. It was located in the Western corner of the state and close to Georgia’s capital city, Atlanta. The proposed second casino would be located in the Southeastern corner of the state in Murphy. It would be close to a major tourist-laden area, with proximity to Gatlinburg.
Why The Small Town of Murphy?
The overall costs would be over $110 million. The real question is would it increase visitors or pull from the pool of clients that visit the Grand Cherokee resort located sixty miles from Gatlinburg in Tennessee? The new site is only an hour away from another site they own and operate. Is this a gamble that they are willing to take? The fact is that the company benefits from both of the casinos, so essentially they would still get the proceeds. However, there must be enough interest in this area to offset the large operational costs. They believe Murphy is an ideal location because it can pull from several states and it in proximity to major freeways.
Michell Hicks is the chief for the Cherokee Indians Eastern Band division. He spoke candidly stating that much research had gone into the prospect of opening a new casino. He believes it would strengthen the marketplace without harming the already existing revenues. When looking at the current revenues, they have been increasing fast, and it is a clear indication that there is still room to grow. Rather, he stated that they could pull from major cities like Atlanta, Knoxville and Chattanooga to bring in new customers. Hicks has served as the chief for twelve years, but he doesn’t wish to extend his term.
Financial Security and New Jobs
It cannot go unnoticed that South Carolina, Georgia and Tennessee all are without a Las Vegas-style casino for their people to enjoy. The fact that the neighboring states lack of a proper gambling facility is also another strong point. These states all provide great traffic to the existing Cherokee casino outside Atlanta. Currently, it is not unusual for this casino location to get entire busloads of people from neighboring states on day trips. The new casino will increase financial benefits for Western part of North Carolina.
Jobs are another major consideration. Currently, more than eighty-five percent of the employees at their current location are not members of the tribe. The new facility is said to bring more than nine-hundred jobs to the area. Since the poverty rate in that area is more than eighteen percent, it would be a welcomed source of income for many families. The Great Recession has caused people to be more cautious with their money. Leisure spending has been cut drastically. Taking a look at the gambling industries numbers in 2015, and there are signs of stability since July. However, there are still many challenges ahead. This is where marketing will play a huge part in luring new customers.
Poor Gambling Revenues Cannot Be Ignored
Revenues from Indian gambling casinos grew only two percent last year. In 2013, the revenues were only one percent. At least it’s not a loss, but it doesn’t look promising enough open another venue. Unlike the national numbers, the Eastern Bands grew by sixteen percent in 2013. Their pace has always been far above the industry and they hope to continue this trend. In 2013, they made nearly five hundred million in revenues. This was the first full year that the company provided tables games, like blackjack, and they opened a hotel to accommodate existing customers at their resort.
Harrah’s of Cherokee Valley River will have three hundred hotel rooms. They will offer more than seventy gaming tables and one thousand slot machines. Though it will be a third of the size of the current resort, it will still be a massive venue. They will pare down the amenities to help with costs. Things like having a food court, but no stand-alone restaurants will help with expenses. Will people travel further to get those amenities though is the question? The large casino outside of Atlanta offers a VIP club. This offers free hotel room stays and free meals when players get a certain amount of points on their cards. For some, those perks will be too good to give up. The Murphy casino won’t have as much to offer. Some people think it would be worth the drive.
It’s A Good Move For The Community of Murphy
Hicks is thinking about the community too. He has been the chief for over twelve years. Not only has he overseen casino expansion, but he has helped to improve the local schools and, build a new hospital. Any money that was borrowed for building projects was quickly repaid. There are more than fifteen thousand members in the Eastern Band. Each of these members will receive a payment each year of about ten thousand dollars. That benefit will continue to grow as the revenues and establishments do. The foundation is pretty broad, but it is a great benefit to give to the tribe of the Western part of North Carolina, and all the people who live in the community.