A South Carolina tribe is one step closer to opening a casino in North Carolina after a compact was reached between the Catawba Indian Nation and N.C. Gov. Roy Cooper.
The Class III gaming agreement still needs approval from the U.S. Department of the Interior’s Bureau of Indian Affairs, but it will allow for construction to begin, according to the Charlotte Observer. The Catawbas plan to open an “introductory facility” in the fall with at least 1,300 slot machines.
Class III gaming includes casino-type games of roulette, craps, blackjack, baccarat and Keno, along with slot machines. Class III gaming is subject to tribal, state and federal authority, according to a Catawba news release.
Called the “Two Kings Casino Resort in Kings Mountain,” it’s a roughly $300 million, 60,000-square-foot facility located about 35 miles west of Charlotte in Cleveland County.
"On behalf of the Catawba Nation, I sincerely thank Gov. Cooper and his team for their thoughtful collaboration in creating this compact, which is the key step in bringing economic benefits and thousands of jobs from our casino project to the citizens of North Carolina,” Catawba Chief Bill Harris said in a news release Saturday. “With work on the compact completed, we will advance the project from the site preparation phase to vertical construction of an introductory casino gaming facility to open this fall.”
The Catawbas’ casino is being contested by the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians, which owns two casinos in western North Carolina and recently announced it has agreed to an amended compact with the state to allow sports betting at its Harrah’s Cherokee casinos. It could begin in the first quarter of this year.
Principal Chief Richard Sneed of the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians released a statement over the weekend, according to The Observer, and called Cooper’s signing of the compact “disappointing.”
“The proposed Kings Mountain casino was born of an illegal act and has continued to swirl in controversy and unethical behavior,” Sneed said in the statement. “But this compact changes nothing. We continue to believe the courts will affirm the illegality of this casino and when that happens, the Catawba agreement will be nothing more than a worthless piece of paper.”
In March 2020, the U.S. Interior department put the Kings Mountain casino land in trust, allowing for development of the casino. In late October, Cooper's administration received a proposal from the Catawbas on how it would run the casino, according to the Associated Press.
That draft was the basis for the gambling compact that was reached Friday. The story in The Observer and the Catawba news release said details of the compact include:
Although the North Carolina sports betting bill was passed in July 2019 by the General Assembly and signed into law by Cooper later that month, the process was delayed for more than a year while an amendment to the gaming compact was worked out between the state and the tribe. The coronavirus pandemic has been cited as one reason for the delay, according to a published report.
The law made in-person wagering legal at the Eastern Band of Cherokee casinos in Cherokee and Murphy. The compact is in the process of completing a 45-day public comment period before it can go into effect.
The National Indian Gaming Commission reported recently that tribal casinos had record high revenues in the 2019 fiscal year, with gross gaming revenue at an industry-record $34.6 billion. That was an increase of 2.5% over the $33.7 billion recorded in fiscal 2018.