CNB lands contract with IRS, notes ‘win’ in Arkansas casino battle

Cherokee Nation Tribal Councilors Melvina Shotpouch and Shawn Crittenden listen during an Aug. 15 meeting. During the monthly get-together, councilors heard reports from the Cherokee Nation Businesses boss and the principal chief. 

TAHLEQUAH – Cherokee Nation Businesses recently won what the CEO says is “a very significant” contract with the Internal Revenue Service, which has faced a well-publicized backlog of tens of millions of tax returns and clogged customer service phone systems.

“If you may have read, the IRS is several years in some cases behind schedule in processing the returns that they receive,” CNB CEO Chuck Garrett told Tribal Councilors on Aug. 15 during his monthly report. “We’ve been hired to help streamline that process and help work with them to make that a smoother and more efficient operation. So we’re very proud of the work we’re doing there.”

According to the Associated Press, IRS leaders have attributed the backlog to decades of underfunding and antiquated internal computer systems.

Garrett was also asked about the tribe’s effort to open its first Arkansas casino. 

“It’s been an endurance test,” he said. “We have been in the trenches with hand-to-hand combat for four years. It’s really been quite a test of tenacity.”

Cherokee Nation Businesses has secured a gaming license to establish a resort and casino in Pope County, Arkansas, under Amendment 100, which was approved by voters in 2018. However, further legal issues remain.

“We know exactly where the venue will be,” Garrett said. “We have gone through the local planning commission that designates zoning, and we have received approval for the zoning. So we on the ground are looking really, really strong. But we have two court cases remaining. Without getting into too much of the detail in our strategies behind them, let me just say they are Hail Marys. They rely on us not having the sufficient experience necessary to operate this casino. Last I checked, we have 10 casinos, and been doing pretty well over the last 20-some odd years. I think the court will see through that and we’ll get the clearance, I think, in the next handful of months to move forward.”

Within the past two weeks, Garrett said, CNB had a “win” when a Fair Play for Arkansas 2022-backed ballot initiative to remove Pope County, Arkansas, as a state-licensed casino site was discarded by the state Board of Election Commissioners.

“You might know, the Choctaw Nation sponsored a ballot initiative petition, spent several million dollars, in fact, trying to collect the necessary signatures to get a question on the November ballot,” Garrett said. “The attorney general deemed the ballot question to be ineligible and inadequate and threw it out essentially – would not allow that to go on the ballot because it was misleading. It failed to indicate that we had already won the license and notwithstanding that fact, there had been a lot of misinformation spread across the state in an effort to collect the signatures.”

On a different note, Garrett asked councilors to be on the lookout for potential CNB hires.

“We continue to need good men and women to join our company,” he said. “It is very critical that we have fully staffed gaming venues in particular, our food and beverage venues, which have not been able to come back full strength because of staffing issues.”

CNB offers a referral program for employees.

“If they refer someone that takes a job and sticks with us a little bit, it’s a $500 referral program, which has helped over the years,” Garrett said.