The Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians owns and operates the Harrah's Cherokee Casino Resort in Cherokee, North Carolina. Photo: HarrahsCherokee

Eastern Cherokees schedule vote on liquor sales beyond casinos

Citizens of the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians will decide whether tribe should allow the sale of liquor outside of its gaming enterprise in North Carolina.

The referendum was approved after two days of tribal council debate, The Cherokee One Feather reported. A date hasn't been scheduled, the paper said, but voters will be asked whether the tribe should open its own liquor store.

"We could ease into it with one store to demonstrate that we have control and we know how to operate it," Chief Richard Sneed said at a council session on February 2, The One Feather reported. "And, then we could build regulation afterwards for a question like this because as it stands right now there is no regulation on the books.”

Originally, the language of the proposed referendum was much broader. It would have asked voters about liquor sales "on tribal trust land at locations other than casino property," The One Feather reported. Sneed made an amendment to limit the question to a tribal store, the paper said.

Liquor is currently allowed at the Harrah’s Cherokee Casino Resort and the Harrah's Cherokee Valley River Casino and Hotel. Sales began after tribal citizens approved them through a referendum in 2009.

But tribal citizens and leaders raised concerns. They noted that liquor sales are allowed at other businesses on the reservation under a state law that the tribe must follow because the state can regulate liquor, even in Indian Country.

Sneed's predecessor, who was removed from office by impeachment last year, had been refusing to issue those types of permits.The tribe is now complying with the law after being threatened by the state.

The tribe has since hired Terri Henry as the first director of the Tribal Alcoholic Beverage Control Commission, The Smoky Mountain News reported. Henry is a former tribal council member.

Read More on the Story:
Council approves alcohol referendum question (The Cherokee One Feather February 2, 2018)
Tribe will hold alcohol vote (The Smoky Mountain News February 7, 2018)

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