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Wednesday, 03 June 2009 18:46

Time to go all in at Harrah’s

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It’s time for Harrah’s Cherokee Casino to offer alcohol to patrons, especially since the Tribe is counting on receipts from the thriving gambling operation to pay for everything from health care to education, and enrolled members can certainly make use of the extra money. If Harrah’s is to remain the Tribe’s cash cow, the smartest route is to maximize profits by passing the measure permitting the casino to serve alcohol.

No one in this country, and particularly no one living near a Native American reservation, can deny the negative effects of alcohol. It’s created more problems for more families than most people can imagine. The damages have been significant among Native American populations.

But some things have changed over time. Cherokee has become a place where education and social programs have vastly improved over the last decade. While we will never erase all of America’s social ills, Cherokee now has more tools in place than ever to help its people deal with whatever addiction problems they might have. Having alcohol within the community at the casino may strike fear into the heart of some, but the truth is that alcohol is now available right over the county lines in Jackson and Swain.

Many of these programs to help the addicted, ironically, are funded by profits from the casino. Tribal leaders get 50 percent of the profits to fund programs, and they have invested that money wisely. Most all agree that having alcohol at the casino could lead to a substantial jump in profits. That means more money to build facilities like schools or public health clinics.

Tribal leaders and Harrah’s managers have decided to position Cherokee and the casino as a destination resort. That means they want Cherokee and Harrah’s to be a place people will come to for several days at a time, and research shows those travelers want the ability to have a beer or a drink should they desire.

Much of the opposition to alcohol at the casino comes from those who are morally opposed to drinking. The only point to make here is that alcohol — like gambling — is a choice, and those who are opposed to it should continue to argue and debate their side of this. Opponents deserve to be heard, and it remains to be seen who will win the day in this historic vote.

In a debate that has strayed into the arena of morality, it seems belittling to bring up the sour economy. But the economic slowdown in Western North Carolina has affected thousands of families, depriving them of work and the money necessary to take care of themselves. Harrah’s has become the region’s — not just Cherokee’s — most important economic engine. If its profits go up, then nearly 2,000 workers and dozens of small companies in and around the region — along with the 14,000 Cherokee who receive per capita checks — will have more money to spend.

The casino has brought a new prosperity to Cherokee and helped the entire region. There are many more positives than negatives in helping that business by allowing it to offer alcohol to its patrons.

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