CATOOSA — As he left the Go-Go's concert Thursday at the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Tulsa, Shawn Slaton, interim CEO of Cherokee Nation Entertainment, reflected on the just-finished addition to the casino floor.
“I looked into the new area and I thought, man, that's really beautiful,” Slaton said Friday. “What a difference 18 months makes.”
The new, nonsmoking casino floor, part of the Hard Rock's 10-story tower that's still partially under construction, adds 500 gaming machines, 15 table games, a poker room, a food court and a media bar dubbed Replay.
Cherokee Nation officials took part in a grand opening Friday.
Cherokee Principal Chief Bill John Baker noted that the “magnificent” new addition adds 50 jobs at the casino and will bring in even more money for tribe members.
“Five percent of every dollar goes to Cherokee health care,” he said. “Another 30 percent goes to services for the Cherokee people.”
Although Cherokee officials expressed their gratitude and excitement during the grand opening, Slaton noted that, without the actions of four people, it would have been a very different kind of ceremony.
The morning after the February 2011 blizzard that dumped 14 inches of snow, Tyler Sanders, an employee of the casino, noticed flakes of wallboard on the floor in a bathroom, Slaton said. Rather than sweep it away, he looked up and saw growing cracks in the ceiling.
Sanders notified Eddie Scully, who then notified Willie Whitekiller, who called Gary Weddell, vice president of gaming operations. Slaton said that even though Weddell faced pressure to keep bringing in money, he made the call to evacuate the area.