Artist's rendering of proposed Catawba Nation casino in North Carolina. Image: Catawba Nation Project Brief

Catawba Nation faces more opposition to homelands bill thanks to Eastern Cherokees

The Catawba Nation is facing more opposition to a homelands bill that paves the way for a new casino in North Carolina.

On Monday, the board of commissioners in Haywood County approved a resolution in opposition to S.790, the bill that confirms the tribe's ability to open the casino. The resolution cites threats to the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians, whose gaming operations are located in another part of the state.

According to the resolution considered at the meeting, the "establishment of a Catawba Indian Nation casino in North Carolina under S.790 would result in fewer jobs offered by the Cherokee casino resorts and the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians Tribal operations, thereby affecting the unemployment rate in Western North Carolina, and the salaries, wages, and other investments recycled back into the local and regional economy."

It adds that the "establishment of a Catawba Indian Nation casino in North Carolina under S.790 would result in lost investments and revenue in Western North Carolina and most of the Catawba casino revenues going to South Carolina casino developers and a South Carolina Indian tribe."

The Eastern Band asked the county to oppose S.790, according to news reports. The tribe also has asked six other counties to do the same.

“This is an issue we should treat as if this business was located in Haywood County and employed approximately 500 people in Haywood County,” commissioner Kirk Kirkpatrick said, The Smoky Mountain News reported.

The Catawba Nation plans to open the casino in Kings Mountain, a suburb of Charlotte, the state's most populous city. The area is about 130 miles east of the Harrah's Cherokee Casino Resort and about 190 miles east of the Harrah's Cherokee Valley River Casino and Hotel.

The Catawba Nation has been pursuing the project for more than five years. But the Bureau of Indian Affairs has yet to make a decision on the tribe's land-into-trust application for the gaming site.

If S.790 is enacted into law, the BIA would be "authorized" to approve the application. Notably, the bill does not use the word "shall" or similar language that would mandate the BIA to make such a decision.

However, the bill confirms that the tribe is eligible to conduct gaming on the site in North Carolina, pursuant to the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act. That clears up any uncertainty about the Catawba Indian Tribe of South Carolina Land Claims Settlement Act, which bars the tribe from gaming on any lands in neighboring South Carolina.

The tribe is headquartered in Rock Hill, South Carolina, about 47 miles from the gaming site. Despite the distance, the land claim settlement identifies six counties in North Carolina, including the one where the casino would be located, as the service area for the tribe.

S.790 has been referred to the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs. A hearing has yet to be scheduled.

The Eastern Band, incidentally, also has a homelands bill pending in the 116th Congress. H.R.453, the Eastern Band of Cherokee Historic Lands Reacquisition Act, would place lands in Tennessee in trust for the tribe. A prior version of the bill failed to get over the finish line during the last session.

The pertinent text of S.790 follows:

(a) Gaming Facility Authorized.—The Catawba Indian Nation (formerly the Catawba Indian Tribe of South Carolina) is authorized to own and operate a gaming facility on the land described in section 2 of this Act, in Cleveland County, North Carolina.

(b) Indian Gaming Regulatory Act.—The facility described in subsection (a) shall operate in accordance with the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act (25 U.S.C. 2701 et seq.), except that section 20 of the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act (25 U.S.C. 2719) shall not apply to the land described in section 2.

(c) Land In Trust.—The Secretary of the Interior is hereby authorized to take the land described in section 2 into trust for the purpose of conducting gaming, on behalf of the Catawba Indian Nation.

(d) Rights Preserved.—Except as otherwise expressly provided in this Act, nothing in this Act shall prevent any party from enforcing all rights, privileges, or prohibitions as contained within the Catawba Indian Tribe of South Carolina Land Claims Settlement Act of 1993 (Public Law 103–116).

Read More on the Story
Haywood takes stance against proposed casino (The Smoky Mountain News April 3, 2019)
Haywood County opposes new casino south of Charlotte (The Waynesville Mountaineer April 2, 2019)

Join the Conversation

Related Stories
Catawba Nation predicts 'huge' economic impact with casino on homelands (March 20, 2019)
'Sad': Catawba Nation fires back after Eastern Cherokees slam homelands bill (March 18, 2019)
Catawba Nation remains in limbo years after submitting casino application (September 7, 2017)
National Indian Gaming Association honors the late Catawba Nation Chief Gilbert Blue (June 15, 2016)
Catawba Nation still waiting for action on casino in North Carolina (January 27, 2016)
BIA said to be planning hearing on Catawba Nation casino bid (11/11)
Opinion: Catawba Nation casino won't benefit local community (08/12)
Editorial: Catawba Nation casino represents jobs and revenues (08/04)
Catawba Nation still waiting for answer on casino land-into-trust (7/31)
Catawba Nation in talks to bring Hard Rock into gaming plans (7/27)
Business owners support Catawba Nation off-reservation casino (02/25)
Federal review of Catawba Nation off-reservation drags along (02/09)
Pastors continue to rally opposition to Catawba Nation casino (02/05)
Catawba Nation waits for BIA decision on off-reservation casino (01/28)
Catawba Nation casino opponents meet with BIA officials in DC (12/17)