Cherokee Money

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How much money do Cherokee Indians receive?

How much money do Cherokee Indians get?
Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians.gif
Map of the Eastern Band of Cherokee Nation

(Left) Official map of the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians. Map depicts Harrah's Cherokee Casino as well as many of the nation's attractions. The Eastern Band of Cherokee Nation (EBCI) is located in the beautiful, majestic mountains of western North Carolina. The nation is adjacent the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, which was established as a national park in the 1930s, and, with more than 9 million visits per year, it is the most-visited national park in the United States. Map courtesy Cherokee North Carolina Chamber of Commerce.

How much money do Cherokee Indians receive?
Cherokee Money
Since the end of 1995, every enrolled tribal member of the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians has enjoyed a cut of the earnings from the boundary’s biggest breadwinner — Harrah’s Cherokee Hotel and Casino.  Back then, that amounted to $595 a year.  By 2010, it had jumped to $7,347 annually.  Furthermore, future exponential monetary increases for each Cherokee is expected.  We can only imagine what the amount will be in 5 or 10 years.  FIRST, however, you must be "Cherokee" to receive the money. Are you Cherokee?  See OFFICIAL Cherokee Membership and Cherokee Enrollment Requirements and Qualifications and Cherokee Indian Tribal Enrollment and Membership Requirements: The Qualifications for the Cherokee Tribe.
The Harrah’s Cherokee Casino in the Smoky Mountains of North Carolina opened in 1994 to mixed feelings on the part of the residents of the small mountain city, but has since proved to be a winner.  The casino is situated on the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indian Reservation one mile from the downtown area.  At a cost of $93 million it contains 175,000 square feet of video gaming, restaurants, and entertainment areas.  Dazzling lights and glitzy finishes line the interior where visitors play some 3,500 video slots, poker, blackjack, and other games that pay out as much as $159 million annually.  Now the state’s largest tourist destination, the alcohol-free casino attracts 3.3 million visitors each year and continues to grow.  Due to the popularity of the casino, Harrah’s has constructed an adjacent fifteen-story hotel and conference center and plans to mirror it with another tower soon. 
In August of 1994 Governor Jim Hunt signed a seven-year contract with former Indian Chief Jonathan Ed Taylor that permitted gambling on the reservation.  Hunt, who was opposed to gambling, signed the compact because of the economic difficulties of the depressed reservation.  At that time, the Cherokee area had one of the highest unemployment rates in the state, sometimes as high as 50 percent, and a very grim economic outlook.
The casino is owned by the Cherokee Indians who pay Las Vegas-based Harrah’s Entertainment to run it.  In addition to gaming, the facility also hosts top-name entertainment such as Wynonna, the Spinners, Jeff Foxworthy, and Vince Gill in the 1,500-seat Cherokee Pavilion Theater.  
Indians Benefit Directly From Revenue

Harrah’s provides employment for approximately 1,800 individuals with the average salary being $37,000.  Each of 12,500 enrolled tribal members, children and adults alike, receives biannual checks averaging $3,500 that are drawn from the 50 percent of casino revenue that is distributed to the Indians.  Benefits for children are placed in a trust fund that they can access when they turn 18 if they have graduated from high school.  If they do not graduate, they do not receive the money until they are 21.  A Cherokee born today would stand to receive at least $168,000 when he or she turns 18.  The tribe pays for financial training classes for both high school students and adults.  It is not a requirement that tribal members drawing checks live on the reservation, though approximately 10,000 do.
Because of the influx of money into the economy, the tribal government is also able to pay better wages to its employees and has increased its staff from 300 to 900.  The tribal budget has grown from about $10 million a year to over $120 million.  The tribe is developing a home ownership program that will help people buy mid-range priced homes in an attempt to get rid of the trailers.  Tribal leaders have agreed to pave every driveway on the reservation. 
Reservation Benefits from Revenue

Changes can be seen throughout the reservation in the form of better housing, attractive landscaping, upgraded water and sewer systems, and improved schools.  Gambling dollars have funded a diabetes clinic, an urgent care clinic, a wellness center, a youth center, a recreational park, a visitor center, a community center, a nursery, a fire substation, and land purchases.  Portions of earnings are earmarked for a higher education fund providing college scholarships for tribal members.  Charitable causes in Western North Carolina also benefit from the profits.  The tribe uses funds for the local hospital and also operates a senior citizens’ home.  
Historically the Cherokee Indian Reservation businesses closed their doors for the winter months.  But in the years since the opening of the casino business has remained steady with tourists visiting every month of the year, providing year-round employment for many.  The casino is open 24 hours a day seven days a week.  Crime has decreased because the reservation can now afford advanced training for their officers and they have been able to expand their police force.  
Nearby Towns Also Feel the Effects

Cherokee isn't the only town that is benefiting from the profits.  Surrounding counties also see increased revenue with totals of more than $15 million in the past year.  New restaurants, hotels, and other businesses have sprung up in nearby communities.     
Responsible Gambling

Because compulsive gambling can be a serious problem, a pro-active program is maintained by Harrah’s to promote responsible gambling.  Also, a local chapter of Gamblers Anonymous holds weekly meetings to help those with a problem.   
A Bright Outlook For The Future
Because of the tremendous success of the casino and hotel, a second $62 million hotel is in the works for the near future.   Additional parking garages are also planned.  Harrah’s has given Cherokee the revitalization it needs and a bright outlook on the future by injecting hundreds of millions of dollars into the economy.  With their newfound success, the Cherokee will continue to balance promoting their history and gambling on their future.  A minimum of $5 million a year goes to the Cherokee Preservation Foundation that helps keep the region from losing its culture.  Formerly one of the poorest communities in the region, the reservation could soon become one of the wealthiest.  Current Principal Chief Leon Jones knows a lot of people were against the casino in the beginning, but he doubts they would oppose it now.  See also History of the Cherokee Indians.
Credits:, Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians (EBCI), Harrah’s Cherokee Hotel and Casino.


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