ELIZABETH — Caesars Southern Indiana has a new ownership team as the North Carolina-based Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians (EBCI) Holdings celebrates its recent acquisition of the casino.

EBCI Holdings had a ribbon-cutting ceremony Wednesday in honor of the acquisition of the 110,000-square-foot facility in Elizabeth. Caesars Southern Indiana is EBCI Holdings’ first casino acquisition outside of North Carolina.

Although there is a new ownership team, the Caesars branding and the Caesars Rewards loyalty program will remain in place.

The new owners say all of the casino’s nearly 900 employees were retained in their current positions, including Caesars Southern Indiana General Manager Brad Seigel and the senior leadership team. The casino continues to look for additional staffing.

The final sale of the casino to EBCI was approved in August by the Indiana Gaming Commission. In December 2020, EBCI reached a $250-million agreement with Caesars Entertainment to purchase the casino.

EBCI Principal Chief Richard Sneed said the acquisition of Caesars Southern Indiana is an exciting opportunity for both EBCI and local residents.

“Through the thousands of years, my ancestors — the indigenous people of North America — engaged in rigorous commerce before and after European contact,” he said. “The same entrepreneurial spirit that drove our ancestors along trade routes between other tribal nations as far south as Florida is alive and well today.”

Sneed said the tribe has a long history of success with its casinos in North Carolina and they are “very grateful to bring that same spirit, energy and rigor to the Caesars Southern Indiana property.”

The tribe entered into the casino industry in 1997 and operates two casinos in western North Carolina.

“While we are committed to providing the best entertainment and gaming for our guests, we are equally committed to our employees, their families and the Southern Indiana and Louisville communities,” he said.

EBCI Holdings CEO Scott Barber previously worked in executive positions with Caesars Entertainment. He noted the opportunity to purchase a new building; Caesars Southern Indiana opened its new land-based facility in 2019 in a move from the riverboat casino.

He said EBCI Holdings was established to diversify the tribe’s economy by expanding assets in the commercial gaming and hospitality business.

“We look forward to growing the company,” Barber said. “Our goal is to have six to eight casinos over the next five years, and in addition to brick and mortar casinos, we’re looking at other channels, like online gaming and mobile sports betting.”

At Caesars Southern Indiana, EBCI Holdings is looking at upgrades to the hotel and food/beverage options, Sneed said.

“We’re very proud of the fact that we retained 100% of the employees,” he said. “We didn’t come in to turn things upside down — we just want to improve on what’s already an outstanding foundation.”

Sneed discussed the role of the casino in supporting the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians. He describes this diversification of EBCI’s assets as increasingly important as the tribe faces a growing population and increasing costs of health care, education and housing.

“For us, what’s most important is caring for our people,” Sneed said. “There’s a lot of discussion these days in the national news media and all around the country about providing for our communities, providing for our people.

”We take that very seriously, and we do our planning for seven generations forward to ensure that our people have adequate health care, adequate housing, adequate opportunities for education — secondary and post-secondary,” he said.

The Southern Indiana venture allows EBCI to continue its partnership with Caesars Entertainment, which has managed both of its North Carolina casinos from the start.

Based on state regulations, 75% of the revenue coming from EBCI’s gaming in Indiana will go to the holding company and 25% of revenues can come back to the tribe, according to Sneed.

“So the revenue that comes from this project will go into endowments — one for housing, one for education and one for health care,” he said.

Josh Kornberg, executive director of the Caesars Foundation of Floyd County, described the local impact of the casino’s revenues, including revitalization efforts in downtown New Albany and grants to local nonprofits.

“In 2020, the foundation contributed $2.7 million, and this year we’re on pace to contribute just about $3 million back to our community, adding this to a $51.5 million that the foundation has already invested into our community. But none of this would be possible without the ongoing generosity from our friends here at Caesars Southern Indiana, who have invested more than $65 million into our foundation.”

“Now as we enter into this new chapter under new leadership, I’m elated about the opportunities that are before us, and I know we will work hard to make our benefactors proud to be such devoted contributors to the Caesars Foundation of Floyd County,” he said.

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