McAlester News-Capital, McAlester, OK

State news

August 30, 2013

Cherokee Nation Principal Chief Baker announced plans to absorb displaced UKBCI's casino workers.

McALESTER — Cherokee Nation Principal Chief Bill John Baker announced Thursday a plan to absorb displaced United Keetoowah Band of Cherokee IndiansCasino workers.

The UKB, it appears, will not have the 2.5 acres of land upon which its casino sits placed into trust by the Oklahoma attorney general’s deadline of midnight, Aug. 30.

“Employees of the Keetoowah Cherokee Casino are innocent bystanders in this two-decades-long legal battle,” Baker said. “While we may be different Cherokee tribes, we come from one fire. Welcoming our Keetoowah brothers and sisters with open arms is simply the right thing to do.”

Several messages left for UKB General Counsel Carl Artman, a former assistant director for the Bureau of Indian Affairs, were unreturned by press time One UKB employee, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, expressed sadness at the turn of events.

“It’s so sad that things have come to this,” said the employee. “We’ll just have to see what happens next.” According to a source inside the UKB, a rally is slated for today outside the casino on South Muskogee Ave. Cherokee Nation Entertainment officials have scheduled three employment registration meetings for displaced UKB gaming employees. The meetings will be held Tuesday Sept. 3 from 10 a.m. to noon, 1 to 3 p.m. and 4 to 6 p.m.

All meetings will be at the Webb Building on the Northeastern State University campus at 610 N. Grand Avenue. Interested displaced UKB casino employees need to attend only one ofthe three scheduled meetings.

All participants should be prepared to provide proof of UKB casino employment, such as recent a pay stub, and two forms of identification. Free parking is available next to the Webb Building. Baker emphasized that CNE officials are working diligently to minimize any disruption in pay for UKB casino employees.

“The most important thing is that these innocent workers who may be displaced are still able to provide for their families,” Baker said. “We want to calm any fears they may have and let them know we will do everything in our power to make sure any transition is as smooth as possible.” The UKB casino employs about 150 people, and its profits provide funding for an additional 70 jobs.

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