Catawba Tribe Gets DOI Approval For A New North Carolina Tribal Casino

Posted on March 25, 2020 - Last Updated on March 27, 2020

When it comes to the short history of casinos in North Carolina, the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians has always been the sole operator in the state. That may change, however, as the Catawba Indian Nation now has plans for a casino of their own to be located in Kings Mountain in the southwestern part of the state.

As the North State Journal reports, last week the U.S. Department of the Interior informed Catawba Indian Nation that their proposed land trust acquisition had been approved, thereby enabling the tribe to move forward with plans for what would be the state’s third tribal casino.

Catawba tribe plan for Kings Mountain Casino years in the making

In a press release, the tribe stated its intention to work closely with Gov. Roy Cooper to ensure the state benefits from the new casino. Proponents of the project have estimated it will bring as many as 5,000 construction jobs and 4,000 permanent jobs to the area.

The casino itself has been an object of discussion and debate for more than seven years. Currently, the project calls for a 220,000-square-foot complex and a 1,500-room hotel, with restaurants, shopping, a concert venue, and casino space enough for nearly 1,800 electronic gaming devices and 54 table games.

Kings Mountain is located about 35 miles due west from Charlotte. Situated near Gastonia, the small city is about a two-and-a-half-hour drive from the state’s only two casinos, Harrah’s Cherokee Casino Resort in Cherokee which opened in 1995 and Harrah’s Cherokee Valley River Casino in Murphy which opened in 2015.

Cherokees object to South Carolina-based tribe building NC casino

Meanwhile, the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians will not be allowing the project to go forward unchallenged. They have already responded to the Catawba tribe’s announcement, objecting that the proposal violates the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act.

At issue is the fact that the Catawba Nation is based in Rock Hill, South Carolina, just over the state border.

“The federal government has no right or authority to create a new reservation for the Catawba Nation across state lines, into Cherokee historical territory, just to build a casino,” said Cherokee Chief Richard Sneed.

At a press conference last Friday, Catawba Indian Nation Chief Bill Harris responded by expressing hope that “the Cherokees will eventually want to collaborate on strengthening Indian unity” going forward, reports the Charlotte Business Journal.

Federal department moves ahead with decision without legislative backing

Last year North Carolina’s two U.S. senators, Richard Burr and Thom Tillis, sponsored a bill introduced by Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina to authorize the U.S. Department of the Interior to make this very move and enable the Catawba tribe to obtain the land near Kings Mountain.

That bill failed to move forward, but the Department of the Interior acted, anyway, thus drawing objections not only from the Cherokees but also from other state lawmakers.

The U.S. Department of the Interior is a federal department in the executive branch charged with managing and maintaining the nation’s federal lands and natural resources, including administering programs concerning Native Americans and their territories.

While the Catawba tribe has yet to announce a timetable for when the new casino might open, estimates are construction will take at least 15 months once it begins.

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Martin Harris

Martin Harris is a writer and teacher who has reported on poker, online gambling, and sports betting since the mid-2000s. Once a full-time academic (Ph.D., English), he currently teaches part-time in the American Studies program at UNC Charlotte. His book Poker & Pop Culture was published by D&B Books in 2019.

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