Cherokee Casino & Hotel Roland is eyeing a fall opening for the hotel portion of its new $80 million “premier entertainment development.” An exact date has yet to be announced, but it’s the next phase in the facility’s grand opening rollout. (The new casino portion opened on July 1.)
The City Wire recently spoke to Chad McReynolds, general manager of the Roland location, and discussed specifics on what this facility will mean for jobs and the local economy. In terms of dollars invested, it's one of the largest projects in the Fort Smith metro in recent years.
“Before building the new facility, Cherokee Casino Roland employed 320 people,” McReynolds said. “The new entertainment destination added nearly 300 jobs, including a few new positions coming with the opening of the hotel this fall.”
While McReynolds did not provide specifics in terms of employee income levels, he did note the job additions would include servers, food and beverage staff, EVS attendants, director of hospitality, hotel manager and executive chef positions, with each offering “competitive pay, health insurance and a retirement package.”
Cherokee Nation and Cherokee Nation Entertainment officials broke ground on the new $80 million resort in April 2014. The 170,000-square-foot casino and hotel offers 850 electronic games, table games and a private High Limit poker room. Two dining options are also available for guests, along with an entertainment venue offering a cocktail bar and live music.
The original Roland facility opened in November 1990 with just 64 employees, and has undergone $1.2 million in remodels and renovations to the original structure, so this expansion is comparatively huge — something Janelle Fullbright, deputy speaker of the Cherokee Nation Tribal Council and representative of district 6, referred to as something “we’ve waited on for a long time.”
“I’m very proud of all the jobs this casino is bringing to Sequoyah County. This town and community has been very supportive of us. I am happy these employees have a beautiful place to work and it is something to be proud of,” she said.
Cherokee Nation Principal Chief Bill John Baker also weighed in, emphasizing the number of jobs and the “impact to the local economy.”
“We understand that gaming is simply a means to an end,” Baker said. “Our goal is to create good jobs for our people, provide our elders access to critical services, ensure our families have quality homes and world-class health care, and give our children the opportunity to pursue an education. Economic development like this allows us to achieve those things that will shape the future of the Cherokee Nation.”
During the past few years, the tribe has donated $100 million of casino profits and reinvested it in the Cherokee Nation’s health care system.
“This investment was used to enhance two existing health centers and build two new health centers,” McReynolds said. “These upgrades to the health care system will help shorten wait times and give better care to the Cherokee people.”
But it’s not only Cherokee people who are affected by the Cherokee Nation’s efforts.
A 2015 economic impact study by Dr. Russell Evans of Meinders School of Business at Oklahoma City University reported that the Cherokee Nation has a $1.55 billion impact on the Oklahoma economy, making the tribe one of the state’s biggest economic drivers. The report also showed Cherokee Nation and its businesses are constantly expanding economic footprint through job creation and expanded operations like that of Cherokee Casino & Hotel Roland.
“We are creating hundreds of new jobs with this expansion, and that will positively impact the local economy,” said Baker. “The growth means improving the quality of life in this region, not just for Cherokees but for all families throughout the neighboring communities.”