By SCOTT MCKIE B.P.
ONE FEATHER STAFF
The Catawba Indian Nation, a federally recognized tribe based in South Carolina, is one step closer to their dream of a casino in Kings Mountain – just outside of Charlotte. The Catawba tribal government announced on Friday, Jan. 22 the signing of a gaming compact with the State of North Carolina that will allow the Tribe to operate various forms of Class III gaming at the planned facility including raffles, video games, gaming machines, and sports and horse race wagering.
“On behalf of the Catawba Nation, I sincerely thank Governor Roy 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 statement. “I would also like to thank Secretary of State Elaine Marshall and Attorney General Josh Stein for their review and signoff of the compact. 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 Department of the Interior put 17 acres into trust in Cleveland County for the Catawba Nation in March 2020, and the Tribe broke ground on their Two Kings Casino on July 22, 2020.
A spokesperson for Gov. Roy Cooper’s Office told the One Feather, “The land for the proposed Catawba casino was taken into trust by the federal government last year. While this project is the subject of ongoing federal litigation, the Department of Interior must approve the compact and the Governor’s Office engaged as it would with any project that was granted federal approval.”
EBCI (Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians) Principal Chief Richard G. Sneed’s administration has continually opposed the Catawba project. He said in a statement, “The proposed Kings Mountain casino was born of an illegal act and has continued to swirl in controversy and unethical behavior. It’s disappointing to hear that the Governor felt compelled to sign an agreement that furthers this scheme and threatens the integrity of tribal gaming everywhere. 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.”
The EBCI filed a lawsuit (Eastern Band of Cherokee v. Department of Interior) arguing the Department’s decision to grant the 17-acre land-into-trust decision. A statement from the Office of the Principal Chief addresses this, “The EBCI argues that the Department of Interior ignored and violated numerous laws and rules that clearly, directly, and explicitly prohibit such action, including the Administrative Procedures Act, National Environmental Protection Act, and the National Historic Preservation Act. The case is pending in federal court. In December 2020, Judge James Boasberg granted an EBCI request for expediting oral arguments which are now expected to be held next month.”
The Dept. of the Interior announced the land being taken into trust for the Catawba on March 12, 2020 – the same day as another land-into-trust decision for the Cahto Tribe. At the time, Tara Sweeney, assistant secretary for Indian Affairs, noted, “These decisions empower the Cahto Twice and the Catawba Nation to pursue economic development opportunities for the benefit of their tribal members and communities. I am proud to support their efforts.”
The compact outlines a revenue-sharing plan that states the Catawba will remit a monthly payment to the State’s Indian Gaming Education Revenue Fund which, according to Sec. 4.1(B) of the Compact, “…shall be calculated by multiplying the amount of the gross revenue from live table gaming earned from the Tribe’s gaming facility during a given months times the following percentages:
– Five percent (5%) for the period from the commencement of the live table gaming by the Tribe to Aug. 12, 2022;
– Six percent (6%) for the period of Aug. 13, 2022 to Aug. 12, 2027;
– Seven percent (7%) for the period of Aug. 13, 2027 to Aug. 12, 2032; and
– Eight percent (8%) subsequent to Aug. 12, 2032.
The compact also establishes a non-profit known as the Catawba Indian Nation Foundation “whose purpose shall be to enhance the long-term success of the casino and the development of the Catawba Indian Nation Lands”. The Foundation is tasked with assisting in economic development, education including scholarships “for members of the Catawba Indian Nation and other federally and state-recognized Indian tribes within North Carolina”; and culture and historical preservation.