EBCI Holdings, the business arm of North Carolina-based tribe Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians, is set to bid on an opportunity to build two new out-of-state casinos. The plan was approved by Tribal Council by an 8-2 vote last Wednesday.
The resolution outlines a “new business and investment opportunity” referred to as “Project Thoroughbred,” in which EBCI Holdings would make an investment of $25 million for an equity stake of approximately 44% in expanded commercial gaming interests.
Should EBCI Holdings be selected as the winning bidder, it will make a deposit from its own accounts of about $2.5 million. Then the tribe would provide $25 million from its endowment and investment accounts – plus or minus 10% – “all or a portion of which will be contributed or otherwise invested, directly or indirectly, in the project”.
The total cost of the project is estimated at $90 million and would involve building and owning two new casinos. EBCI Holdings intends to obtain about $62 million in debt financing, guaranteed by the tribe. Many details are yet to be unveiled, such as a revenue allocation plan.
“It allows us to go into a new state with a gaming property under a partnership agreement so the tribe’s not on the hook 100%. We will actually have a 44% equity stake,” Cory Blankenship, EBCI Secretary of Finance and a board member of EBCI Holdings, said.
The plan was approved through a special session “due to the short time between when EBCI Holdings first learned of the opportunity and the impending deadline for submitting a bid”. Blankenship described the project as “a good opportunity” to develop two gaming properties in a new jurisdiction at a “relatively low cost of entry.”
“We’re not the only ones seeking this opportunity, but it appears that we are in the lead because of the reputation of the Eastern Band and because we have a 30-year track record of being responsible in this industry. I think that we’ve got a really good shot at this, and it is time-sensitive,” Cory Blankenship said.
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