SEVIERVILLE, Tenn. — The Eastern Band of the Cherokee Indians (EBCI) is in talks to buy a parcel of land in Sevier County for "future economic development."
Officials with the City of Sevierville say the property is just off I-40 at exit 407.
The Cherokee could use the land to build a casino, if Tennessee law were changed to allow that, but for now city officials say Cherokee leaders told them they believe it is a good spot for future commerce and are not banking on being able to build a casino.
“This property, if purchased, will be utilized for future economic development for the EBCI. The location of the property lends itself to many possibilities for economic diversification for the Eastern Band, and I am excited about this opportunity,” said Principal Chief Richard Sneed in a statement.
Casino gambling is not legal in Tennessee. The Cherokee do operate a casino on tribal land in North Carolina.
The land is located behind Smokies Stadium and is very near Bass Pro Shops and other retailers, right off the busy exit to Sevier County.
"It's great that the Cherokee Nation is looking to invest," State Rep. Rick Staples said.
Staples says for this land to include a casino, state law would have to change.
"In order to have table gambling, horse racing or any type of casino in Tennessee, we'd have to amend the constitution," Staples said.
While it's not casino gambling, Staples is hoping his bill authorizing and putting a tax on sports betting in Tennessee will become law.
Each local jurisdiction would vote to allow it.
"Here's an opportunity again to capture a stream of income that we can put to good use at the local levels, taking care of our schools, our infrastructure, our roads," Staples said.
He says the Cherokee nation's investment in East Tennessee brings him hope for his bill.
"The fact that they want to bring that into the state of Tennessee and make that heavy investment in East Tennessee is very critical and very important," Staples said. "So that goes to show that other businesses probably feel exactly the same."
Staples hopes his sports gambling bill will be presented in committee in the next two weeks.