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Cherokee's and Harrah's Set North Caroline Opening Date

29 August 1997

CHEROKEE, N.C - Principal Chief Joyce C. Dugan joined Harrah's Cherokee General Manager Jerry Egelus in announcing the casino's opening date as November 13, 1997.

"This opening will culminate at least three years of hard work by so many people and will finally open the door for tremendous economic opportunities for the Cherokee people," states Chief Dugan. "We are finally able to realize the potential of the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act which Congress passed in 1988 and set our goals on self-sufficiency and less reliance on federal dollars."

The grand opening ceremony is slated to be one of the most impressive happenings in western North Carolina with the full schedule of events to be released later. The casino, as outlined in the State/Tribal gaming compact signed on Aug. 10, 1994, will feature 60,000 square feet of gaming area, restaurants, entertainment facility, and daycare center.

"As provided in the federal legislation, tribes and their members are to be the beneficiary of Indian gaming. The portion of net revenue which will be realized by the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians will be used to provide essential services, and address the areas of health, education and welfare as with any local or state government," Chief Dugan said.

"With the casino providing full-time, year-round, employment we hope to conquer our overwhelming unemployment rates and raise our standard of living on the Qualla Boundary. The economic impact on the entire western North Carolina and eastern Tennessee region will be impressive."

Construction on the $85 million, 175,000 square foot facility began in November, 1996, and is now 95% complete, according to Harrah's Cherokee Casino General Manager Jerry Egelus. Interior finishes and miles of carpeting are being installed; paving of the 1,800 space parking area is nearly complete; and landscaping is about to get underway. The project has employed much construction labor as well as numerous local suppliers.

"This complex is developing even more spectacularly than I ever imagined. The exceptional quality of craftsmanship coupled with the splendor of the surroundings makes this project truly one the people of Cherokee can be proud of sharing with all the visitors to this region," said Egelus.

The architectural treatment of the casino complex is a mix of traditional craftsmanship and high technology with native stonework, done by local Cherokee stonemasons, being set off by neon. In the interior, large neon displays will run throughout the casino, adding excitement to the atmosphere of the initial 50,000 square foot gaming space with the effect of real lightning strikes. The exterior entryway of the facility will feature massive stone columns and a waterfall.

The design of the entire complex is geared to visual as well as actual entertainment. The restaurants and lounges have incorporated clever design elements. For instance, the 125-seat Range Steakhouse evokes dining in a stone canyon; the Winning Streaks Deli has an actual race car coming through the wall; and the 400-seat Fresh Market Square Buffet recreates the outdoors with trees and a gazebo.

Harrah's Cherokee Casino anticipates being the largest attraction in North Carolina with more than three million visitors annually. Approximately one million are expected to be new visitors to the area, increasing the western North Carolina tourism base. Harrah's customers will entertain themselves on 1,800 video games including favorites such as Double Diamonds, Red, White and Blue, and more.

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