Budget Expansion Needed For Harrah’s Cherokee Casino Resort

Article by : Helen Nov 18, 2020

The Tribal Council of the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians is wondering what’s going on with the budgeting for the Harrah’s Cherokee Casino Resort. The project is owned by the Tribal Casino Gaming Enterprise who has asked the Council for another US$50 million for the resort. The Council rejected the request, as it could not understand why the project that was supposed to cost US$200 million extended the initial financial planning and asked for another US$50 million. “I’d like to see something justifying why we’re giving you $38 more million for this project,” claimed Albert Rose during the October 26 Tribal Council meeting. The resort has been under development for more than 2 years, with a planned expansion of over US$250 million.

John Houser, TCGE Board Member, pointed out that the initial expansion plan was not well-designed. He said that it was only a concept done “on the back of a napkin”.

The funniest thing about the new project estimate was that the project was supposed to cost US$37.9 million more than planned initially, mysteriously increasing the total budget from US$250 million to US$296.9 million. It’s not that difficult to count that US$37.9 million plus US$250 million is not equal to US$296.9 million.

John Houser claimed that the cost of the construction work and materials increased significantly while the project was in development so that they faced roadblocks on their way. Houser added that they had to redesign the entire place, which cost a lot of money, of course.

It was the right thing to do, but that’s how we ended up so much over.

John Houser, TCGE Board Member

Bo Crowe, the Wolfetown Representative, said that as soon as it got clear that the project was getting out of the budget, all the work should have stopped immediately, and the case should have been brought to the Council.

Realizing how disappointed the TCGE was about the project’s swinging budget, John Houser tried to demonstrate how much work was done to keep the budget as close to the initial plan as possible. He said that they spent more than 6 months analyzing the possibilities to reduce the project cost. They managed to save around US$12 million, but ” we still didn’t get down to where everybody would like for us to be,” said Houser.

As it was expected, when it got to cutting the project budget on the parking structure, Houser was quickly interrupted by Tommye Saunooke, the Painttown Representative. The latter asked whether they included the rebar into the budget or not, which was a great reference to the casino parking garage ramp collapse in Cherokee that happened in 2016.

Anyway, during the Annual Council Meeting on 29 October, the Tribal Council voted 11-1 to give the green light for TCGE to get US80$ million to get the project finished as soon as possible. This is even more than TCGE was initially asking for. Albert Rose, the Birdtown Representative, explained the decision, “… because the project has to be finished. It has to be completed.” Even though the TCGE’s request was approved, most Council members were disappointed by how the project was handled. Wolfetown Representative Chelsea Saunooke said that she doesn’t want future projects to be handled in such an inaccurate way. That’s why she is going to introduce new legislation that will set the capital contract guidelines that should be followed by the contractors.

Helen

Chief Editor

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