Chief Bill Harris of the Catawba Nation announces the name of the Catawba Two Kings Casino Resort at a private event in Kings Mountain, North Carolina, on August 28, 2020. Photo by The Catawba Nation
Catawba Nation hails ‘great news’ for long-awaited gaming facility
Thursday, March 25, 2021
Indianz.Com

The Catawba Nation has secured federal approval of its Class III gaming compact with the state of North Carolina, just months before the debut of the tribe’s long-awaited casino.

A notice of the approved agreement was published in the Federal Register by the Bureau of Indian Affairs on Thursday. Chief Bill Harris welcomed the “great news” for his tribe and the state.

“This is great news for the Catawba Nation, the state of North Carolina and the Kings Mountain region, and I’d like to thank the Bureau of Indian Affairs for its work in reviewing our Compact,” Harris said in a news release. “Our focus now is developing the casino to bring economic benefits and thousands of jobs to the citizens of North Carolina.”

Artist’s rendering of the Catawba Nation casino in North Carolina. Image: Catawba Nation Project Brief

With the compact, the tribe is able to offer Class III products, such as slot machines, poker and similar games, at its forthcoming Two Kings Casino Resort. The facility will be about 45 minutes away from downtown Charlotte, the most populous city in the state.

The tribe signed the agreement with North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper (D) in January. It calls for the state to receive a portion of revenues from Class III games at the casino in the city of Kings Mountain.

The compact also applies to as many as three locations in North Carolina, though the tribe hasn’t announced any plans for future casinos. The agreement will remain in effect for 30 years.

The 17-acre Two Kings Casino Resort site in Cleveland County was placed into trust by the BIA in March 2020. It took about seven years for the land-into-trust application to gain approval, following lengthy internal deliberations through the Barack Obama and Donald Trump administrations.

Catawba headquarters are in neighboring South Carolina, where options for gaming are severely restricted. But the federal law that settled the tribe’s land claim defines Cleveland County and other parts of North Carolina as the tribe’s service area, opening the door for a casino on newly acquired lands in the region.

The only other Indian gaming operations in North Carolina are owned by the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians in the far western part of the state. The tribe has opposed the Catawba Nation’s efforts, calling them an encroachment on ancestral lands near Charlotte.

“The proposed Kings Mountain casino was born of an illegal act and has continued to swirl in controversy and unethical behavior,” Eastern Cherokee Chief Richard Sneed said in January after the Catawba compact was signed.

“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,” Sneed said of the state governor. “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.”

Under the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act, Class III gaming compacts must be submitted to the BIA for review. Typically, the agency approves every agreement — like the one for the Catawba Nation — although there have been instances in which they have been rejected.

“We completed our review of the compact and conclude that it does not violate the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act (IGRA), and any provision of the federal law that does not relate to jurisdiction over gaming on Indian lands, or the trust obligations of the United States to Indians,” Darryl LaCounte, the director of the BIA, wrote in a March 19 letter that was quoted in the tribe’s news release on Thursday.

“Therefore, pursuant to my delegated authority and Section 11 of IGRA, I approve the compact,” wrote LaCounte, who is a career employee at the BIA.

The Biden administration has not publicly announced who will be nominated as the Assistant Secretary for Indian Affairs, although Bryan Newland, the former president of the Bay Mills Indian Community, is currently serving as the Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary for Indian Affairs at the Department of the Interior, which includes the BIA.

The Secretary of the Interior is Deb Haaland, who is the first Native person to lead the federal agency with the most trust and treaty responsibilities in Indian Country. She is also the first Native person to serve in a presidential cabinet.

According to the Catawba Nation, the Two Kings Casino Resort will open this fall.

catawba032521

Related Stories
‘Trump is hitting us really hard’: Biden campaign confronts last minute push for Native vote (October 23, 2020)
‘Incredible Lumbee, Catawba tribes’ #NativeVote20 (October 22, 2020)
Catawba Nation welcomes land affirmation bill in Congress (September 16, 2020)