Harrah’s Cherokee Casinos in North Carolina Remain Open, Defy Stay-at-Home Order

Posted on: December 14, 2020, 08:21h.

Last updated on: December 14, 2020, 09:09h.

Harrah’s Cherokee Casino Resort and Harrah’s Cherokee Valley River Casino are remaining open, as commercial businesses are forced to close nightly on state orders.

Harrah's Cherokee casino North Carolina
Harrah's Cherokee casino North Carolina
The two Harrah’s Cherokee casinos in North Carolina are not abiding by the latest state orders aiming to slow the spread of COVID-19. (Image: WLOS)

On Gov. Roy Cooper’s (D) order, North Carolina entered into a modified stay-at-home order effective December 11. Under the directive, people are to stay at home between the hours of 10 pm and 5 am, the exception being essential and emergency travel.

Most commercial businesses, including restaurants, bars, entertainment venues, personal care, and retail stores, are required to close at 10 pm. On-site alcohol sales must end at 9 pm.

The two Harrah’s casinos, however, are owned by the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians (EBCI). As sovereign enterprises operating on land owned by the federally recognized tribe, the resorts are not required to adhere to state orders. And they’re not.

Casinos Carry On

Friday, December 11 came and went, and Harrah’s Cherokee and Harrah’s Cherokee Valley River did not stop serving booze at 9 pm, nor did casino operations stop for the night.

After considerable research and consideration, the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians will not be adopting the measures included in the newest Executive Order issued by Governor Roy Cooper,” said EBCI Principal Chief Richard Sneed.

“I have worked with EBCI public health officials to enact social distancing measures that protect our tribal citizens and guests while balancing the financial position of our community,” the chief continued. “I will continue to monitor the impact of COVID-19 in our community, and will update our community if further measures are warranted.”

Both Cherokee casinos are requiring employees and guests to undergo temperature screenings prior to entry. Any person with a temperature at or above 100.4 degrees Fahrenheit is not granted access.

Everyone inside the resort must wear a face covering at all times. While restaurants and bars are reduced to 50 percent capacity, that isn’t the case on the gaming floor. Instead, the casino spaces are practicing social distancing, with player position limits on table games, and slot machine banks rearranged to allow for proper social distancing.

Governor Warns of More Restrictions

North Carolina is experiencing a large increase in COVID-19 cases. The Tar Heel State has seen daily new positive coronavirus test results more than double over the past month.

Calling the situation “alarming” and “dire,” Cooper is cautioning North Carolinians that if the numbers do not improve, additional mitigation orders will be commanded.

“We’ll do more if our trends don’t improve,” Cooper said last week. “That could mean additional actions.”

The governor likely isn’t happy that the EBCI isn’t following his orders. Earlier this month, the two parties were united when Cooper approved a proposed amendment to the Cherokee’s state gaming compact that will allow the tribe to operate sports betting at its two casinos. The amended gaming compact still needs the blessing of the North Carolina secretary of state and attorney general, and then approval from the US Department of the Interior’s Bureau of Indian Affairs.

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