Cherokee Indians mark first venture into commercial gaming with Caesars Southern Indiana

Cherokee Indians mark first venture into commercial gaming with Caesars Southern Indiana

The federally-recognized Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians (EBCI) has officially started operating Caesars Southern Indiana Hotel & Casino, marking its first venture into commercial gaming.

After taking possession of the casino resort last month, EBCI held a ribbon-cutting ceremony earlier this week. EBCI Holdings, the Native American tribe’s commercial gaming division, took control of the property after the Indiana Gaming Commission (IGC) approved the property’s $250 million sale from Caesars Entertainment in August. The deal was originally announced in December last year.

Aside from change in the ownership of the gaming license, only a few changes have taken place at the property, with some possible changes in dining options. Tribal leaders said the property would likely stay the same way for the time being. Even the name will not be changed as under the terms of the deal and the licensing arrangement, the tribe can keep the property’s existing name.

EBCI Holdings CEO Scott Barber also noted that the company would retain the gaming property’s entire existing workforce.

Tribal leaders are obviously very happy at their first venture into commercial gaming, but they also have concerns about challenges they could face ahead. For instance, the native tribe will not immediately be able to get all of the proceeds from the commercial gaming property. Annual returns from the property will be limited to 25 per cent.

Speaking on the topic, Mr. Barber explained, “This isn’t Indian gaming. You can’t have all the money back to the tribe. Our revenue allocation plan for Indian gaming is all the revenue comes in. Half of it goes directly to the people in per capita distribution. The other half goes to government operations, and a percentage goes into endowments.”

Currently, the gaming property is actually an offshore riverboat casino, and it s slated to move into a $90 million land-based facility within a couple of years.

EBCI entered into the commercial gaming realm amid increasing challenges in North Carolina. The tribe is still fighting a legal battle against the federal authorities regarding the approval of the Catawba Nation’s casino gaming operations near Charlotte. Moreover, voters in neighboring state of Virginia approved commercial casinos, making it tougher for the EBCI to generate bigger revenue from its conventional Class II gaming operations. It identified Indiana as an entry point to commercial gaming because three commercial casinos were put on sale following the IGC ordered Caesars and Eldorado to offload the properties to get their $17.3 billion merger deal approved.