N.C. casino sees fewer players

Fewer customers are coming to Harrah's Cherokee Casino in Western North Carolina because of a sour economy, and officials are bracing for a reduction in profit for the first time in its 10-year history.

There are 15 percent fewer customers at the casino, the Asheville Citizen-Times reported Monday. Officials said the twice-yearly checks sent to members of the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians could be smaller than before.

Casino spokeswoman Joyce Dugan said facility is moving ahead with an expansion to be ready for a turnaround

“It is this next quarter that is going to be telling,” Dugan said. “We just don't know. No one knows from day to day what the market is going to be.”

The casino's $633 million expansion is boosted by plentiful labor and cheap money. About a month before the economy turned downward, the casino negotiated a lower interest rate on its project, officials said.