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North Carolina's appeals court on Tuesday upheld a statewide ban on video poker machines except those operated by the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians in their Smoky Mountains casino.

A three-judge court panel ruled unanimously that a 2006 state law giving the tribe exclusive gaming rights within North Carolina does not violate a federal Indian gaming law as an amusement machine vendor had argued.

The tribe operates Harrah's Cherokee Casino, which attracts more than 3.5 million visitors a year and generates revenues of more than $250 million annually. Tribal members in June received checks for $3,892 in the first of this year's twice-a-year payments.

The ruling overturned a February decision by Wake County Superior Court Judge Howard Manning that sided with the gaming company and could have again legalized video poker machines in all 100 counties.

But the appeals court said the federal Indian Gaming Regulatory Act allows states to grant tribes preferential gaming rights in hopes the revenues would expand tribal self-government, economic development, and political stability.


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