Cherokees to reinvest casino revenues

Tulsa, Oklahoma (AP) 4-08

The Cherokee Nation plans to use some of its $111 million in profits from its gaming operations to finance expansions at its casinos in Catoosa and West Siloam Springs.

The tribe recently reported to its members that its casinos earned $418.6 million in the fiscal year that ended Sept. 30 while spending $20.4 million on gaming compact fees, $119.4 million on payroll and $167.2 million on operating expenses.

Of the remaining $111.6 million, the Cherokees directed $33.7 million toward governmental services for tribal members and $77.9 million on expanding casino operations and creating new ones.

Mike Miller, communications officer for the tribe, said the Cherokee Casino West Siloam Springs is undergoing a $108 million expansion, expected to be completed later this year, while a $125 million expansion of the Cherokee Casino Resort in Catoosa is to be completed early next year.

“We can help eight people find a job and become employed for the same amount as providing services for one,” Cherokee Principal Chief Chad Smith said. “We believe the greatest service we can do for a Cherokee and his family is help him get a meaningful job. It helps people develop their own self-worth, being able to support their family goes a long way. It’s our general experience that Cherokees want to work.”

Cherokee Nation Enterprise, the tribal entity that runs the casinos, increased its work force by 380 employees last year, according to the data sent to members. Miller said the West Siloam Springs expansion would nearly double its 500-employee work force and the Catoosa resort expansion would add about 450 new jobs to the 1,700 that already exist.

Smith said adding jobs with benefits packages can also reduce the tribe’s burden on funding for social services.