Preparing For A New Casino
By the end of this year, the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians hopes to have a small section of a new casino open in Cherokee County. Once up and running, tribal leaders and law enforcement know it will bring jobs and revenue, but also challenges.
They hope to be ready by coordinating efforts between the reservation, and the Cherokee County Sheriff's Office and by applying the lessons learned from the tribe's first casino.
In October, ceremonial shovels broke ground on the Cherokee Tribe's new casino and hotel in Murphy. And now, the big shovels are digging away on "Harrahs Cherokee Valley River".
"I feel very confident that we've already got a good start," said Cherokee County Sheriff Keith Lovin.
Lovin knows the casino will bring excitement. But also challenges, including the potential for more traffic accidents on the main road in and on a new bridge to be built, possibly more larcenies, and thieves targeting the older folks coming to play.
"You'll see I think a lot of crime preying upon that particular age group," said Lovin.
Lovin expects counterfeiting and other problems.
"If we're going to have gang-related issues or you talk about prostitution or human trafficking issues we're working on all these issues," said Lovin.
To minimize the negatives, Lovin says public safety is job number one, and will require more law enforcement.
"The casino itself will require at least in some coverage about 12 additional positions. And that's probably going to take an amendment of the law at the state level and also working closely not only with our District Attorney but the U.S. Attorney," said Lovin.
Lovin is already holding meetings with the tribe to work out jurisdictional issues for the county and Cherokee Police, including organizing emergency dispatches for police, fire and rescue.
"To be able to address a consistent long term call for service issue, we're working with the law enforcement to see if we can do that and get those jurisdictional issues worked out," said Lovin.
So for instance if we need help obviously, the sheriff can come on to trust lands to assist us in any way and visa versa, said Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians Chief Michell Hicks.
Obviously we want the best personnel and system in place so that when a call comes in its dispatched quickly and responded to quickly, add Hicks.
Construction moves in one direction, while residents have opposing positions on the new casino.
I think hopefully it will improve the economics in the area, said Beverly Hice.
Sue Coley worries about crime and traffic. I moved here from Atlanta you know to get away from it. And now it's creeping back up on me.
Chief Hicks says lessons learned from Harrahs on the reservation, in particular staying ahead of security will be applied at the new casino.
That we're aware of issues that may occur whether it's by the use of alcohol or any other... any time you have more people coming to your town, typically there's going to be more issues, he says.
Lovin says despite some reservations he's moving forward. I like to build things and succeed and serve people. So, I'm excited.
Chief Hicks says the tribe is hoping to have some small gaming areas open by the end of this year with the entire operation done in mid-2015.
By Rex Hodge
Follow Rex on Twitter @RexHodgeWLOS