Catawba, North Carolina Finalize Class III Gaming Compact for Two Kings Casino

Posted on: January 23, 2021, 03:01h. 

Last updated on: January 24, 2021, 08:07h.

The Catawba Nation is another step closer to operating a tribal casino in North Carolina. Late Friday, the tribe announced on its Facebook page it reached an agreement with North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper regarding a Class III gaming compact.

Catawba Nation North Carolina
Catawba Nation Chief Bill Harris testifies at a U.S. Senate Indian Affairs Committee Hearing in May 2019. Late Friday, the sovereign tribal nation announced an agreement on a gaming compact with North Carolina that will allow the tribe to offer Class III gaming in the state. (Image: Catawba Nation/Facebook)

The document was not available for review. However, a press release issued Saturday afternoon detailed some of the provisions that will allow the South Carolina-based tribe to build a $273 million casino resort in Kings Mountain, 30 miles west of Charlotte.

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,” Chief Bill Harris said in the release.

Tribal Administrator Elizabeth Harris told on Saturday the compact will go to the US Department of Interior on Monday. The Interior Secretary will have 45 days from receipt to approve or reject it.

Terms Similar to EBCI Compact

The Catawba release said the terms of the compact resemble a similar agreement North Carolina has with the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians (EBCI).

In exchange for the right to offer table games, Catawba will give the state a share of the proceeds from those games. Tribal and state leaders expect that to eventually generate between $5 million and $10 million for North Carolina.

The state will also receive $191,000 to offset its cost to regulate sports betting.

The casino will also make payments “in lieu of taxes” to Cleveland County, where the casino will be based.

In addition, the casino will transfer funding to a foundation to serve the Catawba, other tribes, and the local community. Transfers will start at $1 million annually, but when the casino resort is fully operational, those yearly payments will reach $7.5 million.

Officials expect the Two Kings Casino Resort to generate $300 million in economic activity and create up to 4,000 jobs.

“Kings Mountain will become a major economic engine in North Carolina,” Kings Mountain Mayor Scott Neisler in the release. “We look forward to creating thousands of good jobs for our hardworking local people. We thank the Catawba Nation for extending their hand of partnership in making this dream a reality.”

Lawsuit Over Two Kings Project Ongoing

While the Catawba move forward with its casino plans, EBCI continues its federal lawsuit seeking to stop the project.

The Cherokee tribe owns two Harrah’s casinos in the western part of the state. The closest to Two Kings is about 130 miles away.

In the suit, EBCI claims the Catawbas are only entering North Carolina because they cannot get a similar agreement to operate a Class III casino in South Carolina. The Cherokees also claim an ancestral tie to the 17 acres where the casino is being built.

The Cherokees requested the case be expedited since casino operations are expected to start on site later this year.

Both the Interior Department and the Catawbas are seeking summary judgment to dismiss the case.

“EBCI’s argument has been rejected by several courts—and embraced by none,” lawyers representing Catawba wrote in a Jan. 11 filing in the case.

EBCI expects a $100 million annual impact on their casino revenues as a result of Two Kings. While seeking to stop the project, Cherokee officials have also moved forward with plans to expand into commercial gaming to mitigate the loss in tribal gaming revenue.

Last month, EBCI entered into an agreement to buy Caesars Southern Indiana from Caesars Entertainment, which operates the two Harrah’s casinos for the tribe.