NC Reps Want Land Deals Checked Near Catawba Casino, EBCI Opens Sportsbooks

Posted on: March 21, 2021, 07:49h. 

Last updated on: March 22, 2021, 11:00h.

A group of North Carolina state lawmakers sent a letter to the state’s Attorney General earlier this week raising questions about land deals tied to a tribal casino in the works near Charlotte.

NC Gaming update
North Carolina state Rep. Susan Fisher (right) meets with representatives of the state’s Audubon in 2019. Last week, she and other state lawmakers asked the Attorney General to investigate land deals near a tribal casino under construction in Kings Mountain. (Image: Luke Franke/NC Audubon Society)

It appears Attorney General Josh Stein will likely pass on the request to check out the case involving the Two Kings Casino, according to television station WRAL. The casino is being built in Kings Mountain by the Catawba Indian Nation. His spokesperson told the TV station Stein could only initiate one if the local prosecutor calls for one.

On Tuesday, State Rep. Susan Fisher, D-Asheville, and a dozen colleagues sent Stein the letter saying they wanted an investigation because of a “lack of transparency” from local officials. The lawmakers claim “multiple elected officials,” including Kings Mountain Mayor Scott Neisler, will benefit from the $273 million casino project. The state legislators also say there are properties around the casino being purchased “by a nearly untraceable network of LLCs” and that some of the companies do not have any legal registration.

“Given that this project (and thus the value of those properties) depends heavily upon government action or inaction, it is in the public’s interest to ensure land transaction laws and disclosure are being strictly followed,” the letter stated.

Fisher’s district is located in western North Carolina. That’s close to the where the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians operates the two casinos that are currently the only ones in the state.

The letter also noted that Gov. Roy Cooper (D) opposed the project when he served as attorney general. However, Cooper signed off on a gaming compact with Catawba officials in January.

That agreement awaits federal approval.

Mayor Would Welcome Review

Neisler told the station that he would be fine with an investigation. His family owns about 700 acres of land a few miles away from the casino’s construction site. Because of mining work currently taking place at the property, the mayor said no one could build on the land.

The mayor blamed EBCI for “heavy-handed” tactics. The Cherokees have opposed the Catawba project from the time it was announced.

Leaders from EBCI have raised concerns about the process. They claim the Catawba is a tribe based in South Carolina and is only building a casino in North Carolina because South Carolina officials rejected the opportunity. The Catawba did not have any land in North Carolina before proceeding with its casino plans.

EBCI is challenging the project, seeking to stop it in federal court.

EBCI Opens First North Carolina Sportsbooks

On Thursday, EBCI’s casinos celebrated the grand opening of their sportsbooks. Both Harrah’s Cherokee and Harrah’s Cherokee Valley River casinos opened brick-and-mortar venues.

North Carolina lawmakers passed a law to allow sports betting at the tribal casino two years ago. However, negotiations between EBCI and the Cooper Administration on an amended Class III gaming compact languished for more than a year. Both sides finally reached an agreement in December.

The Bureau of Indian Affairs officially approved the compact on March 2.

North Carolina law only allows retail sportsbooks.