Cherokee Nation set to open entire $80 million casino and hotel complex in Roland

by Talk Business & Politics staff ([email protected]) 466 views 

Computer rendering of the completed $80 million Cherokee Nation gaming complex in Roland, Okla.

Officials with the Cherokee Nation are set to formally open the entire new $80 million Cherokee Casino & Hotel Roland complex at a Thursday (Dec. 10) ribbon cutting. It’s the second multi-million gaming operation to expand in recent years on the Oklahoma side of the Fort Smith metro area.

The new casino area of the project was opened in July.

Expected to attend the 11 a.m. event are Bill John Baker, Principal Chief of the Cherokee Nation, and Shawn Slaton, CEO of Cherokee Nation Businesses. Cherokee Nation Entertainment is the wholly owned gaming, hospitality, retail and tourism entity of the Cherokee Nation.

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 new facility is estimated to employ more than 600.

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, has referred to as something “we’ve waited on for a long time.”

Cherokee Casino Roland was the Cherokee Nation’s first gaming operation, opening as a simple bingo hall 25 years ago.

During a July 2015 interview Principal Chief Bill John Baker said the new jobs have an “impact to the local economy,” and the casino proceeds help the Nation.

“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.

The Cherokee casino expansion is the second in the Fort Smith metro area in less than three years. The Choctaw Nation opened in early 2013 its expanded $60 million casino and hotel operation in Pocola, just across the Arkansas-Oklahoma line near south Fort Smith.

The Choctaw facility, which was estimated to employ around 850, includes more than 148,000 square feet of casino and hotel space comprised of a 118-room hotel with 10 suites and two luxury suites, restaurant space, a 600-space parking garage and expanded event and meeting spaces.

Choctaw Casino Pocola opened in September 1994. The facility was expanded to 87,600 square feet in January 2005.