The Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians wants to go all-in with its casino in western North Carolina.
In an action that flew for a while under the radar, the Cherokee tribe has asked the state to allow table games — such as blackjack, poker and craps — at the casino, which now only offers gambling through machines. The request will mobilize social conservatives who will argue that if allowed, gambling would spread across the state, separating people, mostly the poor, from their money — and birthing a bunch of societal pariahs.
But the fate of a recent bill that would have allowed gaming in Robeson and other economically deprived counties that border neighboring states suggests an epidemic is not to be feared. That legislation failed to escape a Senate committee headed by Sen. Tom Apodaca, a Hendersonville Republican who seems eager to work on behalf of the tribe’s request.
Regardless of a person’s position on gambling, what needs to be remembered in regard to Cherokees and gaming is this isn’t a wet-dry choice. Gaming is already allowed on the Cherokee reservation, and the expansion to table games would only add more — and superior — options, both for the guests and the hosts.
According to Cherokee gaming officials, the casino, which is currently undergoing a $650 million expansion, would need to hire about 430 employees to work the tables while adding $15 million in salaries to the annual payroll. Those are badly needed jobs in an economy in Year 3 of sorry.
The effect the casino has already had on the local economy there is staggering, with about $380 million in gambling revenue for the fiscal year that ended Sept. 30, 2010; that compares with only $13 million from retail sales of food and clothing, and lodging, so there’s no mystery why people journey there.
It’s true that the best bet is one that is never made, but if you must gamble, your odds of winning are a lot better with a dealer than a machine. Blackjack and craps, which do reward skill, offer some of the best odds in a casino, much better than trying to get some citrus fruits to randomly line up.
If a casino is going to be an option, then there should be a moral requirement that as many people benefit as possible through employment as an offset to the number of people who are going to suffer because of inability to control their impulses. There will always be losers in gambling, and any defense of the state sanctioning of the activity is bolstered by ensuring there are as many winners as possible through job creation.