Catawba Nation Announces Name for $273M North Carolina Casino Resort Project
Posted on: August 30, 2020, 01:42h.
Last updated on: August 31, 2020, 09:08h.
The Catawba Nation’s $273 million casino project near Charlotte, NC took another step on Friday when tribal leaders unveiled the name for the planned — and controversial — resort.
Two Kings Casino Resort pays homage to the region and King Hagler, chief of the Catawba tribe from 1754 until he died in 1763. The resort will be located in Kings Mountain, NC, named for the nearby rock belt also named Kings Mountain at the nearby North Carolina-South Carolina state line. The town took the name after a pivotal Revolutionary War battle took place there.
The Two Kings also represents our tribe’s long history of working with those around us, which King Hagler made a central part of his leadership,” the Catawba Nation said in a Facebook post on Friday announcing the decision.
The tribal nation also unveiled the casino logo, which came about through consultation with Delaware North. The New York-based hospitality company will serve as the gaming operator for the casino. Construction is ongoing and the casino is set to open in about a year.
Tribal leaders estimate Two Kings will generate more than $300 million in economic activity annually and employ 2,600 people. The mayor of the town, located roughly 30 minutes west of Charlotte, has said he expects the resort to be the top entertainment destination between Atlanta and Washington, DC.
Case Against Catawba
However, the casino project is being contested in federal court by the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians. The tribe, which is based in western North Carolina, filed the suit earlier this year against the Interior Department. The EBCI runs two casinos in the state.
In the suit, the Cherokee tribe raised strenuous objections to the casino plans and the way federal officials awarded the project to the Catawbas, a tribe historically based in South Carolina. Earlier this year, the Interior Department signed off to put North Carolina land in trust for the Catawbas after legislation sponsored by US Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-South Carolina) stalled.
In its amended complaint filed last month, the Cherokee claim political influence helped expedite the process. The EBCI allege Wallace Cheves, who has worked with the Catawba to develop a casino, donated nearly $600,000 to President Trump’s campaign and the Republican National Committee. He then used his access to get the Trump Administration to approve the project after meeting directly with high-level officials in Washington.
The EBCI also claims that the administration broke the law when it awarded the land without preparing an environmental impact statement. The Cherokees also believe the land in question may have ties to their tribal ancestry and claim a casino built on the land would hurt its ability to protect any cultural resources that may be discovered there.
Cherokees Get Support
While the Cherokees are trying to stop the courtroom project, the tribe is also seeking help from county governments and other local groups in western North Carolina.
Nearly two weeks ago, the Buncombe County Board of Commissioners passed a resolution by a 6-1 vote opposing the Catawba casino. Buncombe County, located about 50 miles east of Harrah’s Cherokee Casino Resort, is home to Asheville, the largest city in the western portion of the state.
The lone dissenter, Commissioner Anthony Penland, told his colleagues that while he understood the Catawba casino may hurt the Cherokees, he remembered a similar vote the commission took earlier in the month opposing unfair treatment of one group over another.
Considering the Catawbas’ high rate of poverty among their tribe, Penland said he could not support the measure.
I understand the personal views of the commission,” Penland said. “I really wished that it would have been as such that each commissioner could have just personally supported it and it didn’t come before the commission… everybody should have the same opportunity.”
EBCI Chief Richard Sneed also spoke at the Aug. 18 commissioners meeting. He appreciated Penland’s concern for social justice, but he said the process with the Catawbas circumvented the regulatory process, including the numerous environmental, crime, and traffic studies that would have taken years and millions of dollars of tribal funds to complete.
“If we’re going to talk about what is just and right, then we, as elected officials, are bound by the rule of law, and this is unjust and not right,” the chief said.