Original Cherokee Casino employee looks back at company’s beginnings, continued growth

July 18, 2013

Tamera Lee, Cherokee Casino Sallisaw and Cherokee Casino Roland employee, speaks to her 23 years at CNE.Tamera Lee, Cherokee Casino Sallisaw and Cherokee Casino Roland employee, speaks to her 23 years at CNE.

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From the inception of Cherokee Nation Entertainment 23 years ago, Tamera Lee has seen the company transform into an economic engine, bringing jobs by the thousands to Cherokee Nation citizens.

Hired on day one for the first Cherokee Casino, which was then known as Cherokee Bingo Outpost, Lee has risen through the ranks and is proud of the growth and success she’s witnessed within the Cherokee Nation.

In a company that has hired more than 24,000 employees since that first day on Nov. 15, 1990, Lee was an integral part of the beginning processes and operations. Today, CNE has a total workforce of more than 3,500.

“On my first day, they gave me and one other person a huge pile of applications and a phone. We called and set up interviews every 15 minutes until we had all interview times filled,” said Lee, a Cherokee citizen from Sallisaw. “That day I received my badge and employee number and became known as employee number two.”

While the construction was still being completed for Roland’s Cherokee Bingo Outpost, Lee reported to work at the Cherokee Nation Tribal Complex in Tahlequah. There, she helped fill approximately 60 positions for the first Cherokee gaming establishment.

Lee spent her first six years in gaming operations. She has held several titles and is currently a revenue audit manager. She and her team of 10 are responsible for revenue for Cherokee Casino Roland, Cherokee Casino Inn - Roland and Cherokee Casino Sallisaw.

Lee has seen numerous employees rise, like her, from entry level to managerial and administrative level positions. In 1997, Lee was a direct report to CEO Shawn Slaton, who at the time was Director of Finance.

“One of the best things about my job is the people I have had the privilege to work with and get to know,” said Slaton. “One of those special people is Tamera Lee. In the early years, she was the one called upon to help train new staff at other properties and set up gaming accounting processes. I have always admired and appreciated her efforts and hard work.”

Other employees, like Tonya Pascale, general manager of Cherokee Casino Roland and Cherokee Casino Sallisaw, began their careers either working alongside or under Lee’s direction.

“I started at Cherokee Bingo Outpost in 1993,” said Pascale. “My first supervisor was Tamera. She inspired and motivated me. With her guidance, I learned to work hard and learn all I can, and that one day if I set my mind to it, I could eventually be in management myself.”

The Roland property has transitioned from bingo to electronic gaming and has invested more than $1 million on building renovations and improvements. Today, Cherokee Casino Roland is a 24,000-square-foot facility and, with more than 270 employees, is the largest employer in Roland.

“I have met so many wonderful friends and feel so privileged to be part of such a great company,” said Lee. “It all began with one bingo facility and now has grown into eight gaming casinos, including poker, table games, hotels, golf courses, convenience stores, tobacco shops, travel plazas, horse racing, restaurants, full-service bars, coffee shops and more. It’s just so exciting to be part of this ride for almost 23 years, and the best part is knowing that it’s not over.”

Cherokee Casino Roland is located off Highway 64 on Cherokee Boulevard in Roland. Cherokee Casino Sallisaw is located at the intersection of U.S. Highway 59 and Interstate 40 in Sallisaw.

For more information on Cherokee Casinos, visit www.cherokeecasino.com or call (800) 754-4111. All guests must be at least 21 years of age to attend.

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Alicia Buffer

Alicia supports Cherokee Casino & Hotel West Siloam Springs and Cherokee Casinos in Ft. Gibson, Roland, Sallisaw and Tahlequah in their public relations efforts.
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