North Carolina Tribal Casino Near Charlotte to Finally Break Ground on Resort

Posted on: June 2, 2024, 11:30h. 

Last updated on: June 2, 2024, 11:30h.

A tribal casino project in North Carolina roughly 35 miles west of Charlotte is finally nearing construction more than a decade after the undertaking was first announced.

North Carolina casino Catawba Two Kings
An artist’s rendering of the Catawba Two Kings Casino Resort in North Carolina. The tribe is finally ready to break ground on the $700 million development that it’s embarking on in a partnership with Delaware North. (Image: Catawba Nation)

The Catawba Nation has operated a temporary casino in Kings Mountain with about 1,000 slot machines, electronic table games, and a retail sportsbook since 2021. The provisional gaming facility was to only operate for a year or two while the tribe built a permanent destination resort on the property located off Interstate 85 at Exit 5.

A federal probe and subsequent legal wranglings greatly delayed the start of construction. The tribe said last week that the ownership dispute has culminated and financing is in place to begin building the $700 million integrated resort that will be known as the Catawba Two Kings Casino Resort.

We persevered to achieve a fair deal so that we can now realize the full financial and economic benefits of the project for Catawba Nation members and residents of Cleveland County,” said Catawba Nation Chief Brian Harris.

“The establishment of this casino is not just about bricks and mortar,” Harris continued. “It symbolizes our commitment to preserving our tribal identity, supporting our community, and creating opportunities for our people.”

A ceremonial groundbreaking is planned for Friday, June 7. The Catawba Nation regained federal recognition in 1993 and in 2013 announced its intention to become a gaming tribe with a Class III casino west of Charlotte.

Amicable Separation

The delay in the Catawba Nation bringing to life what the tribe believes will become its economic lifeline has primarily dealt with which entities will have controlling ownership in the business.

North Carolina real estate developer Wallace Cheves, who local media call “politically connected,” in 2020 helped the tribe secure approximately 17 acres of land in Kings Mountain and have the U.S. Department of the Interior place the property into trust, a critical development in the Native American group establishing sovereign territory. The land-into-trust progression was also crucial in moving the tribe towards gaming.

However, the National Indian Gaming Commission (NIGC) raised concerns about Cheves’ Sky Boat Gaming, LLC, having too much equity in the tribal casino resort. The federal agency concluded that Sky Boat, a commercial endeavor, could not possess such an ownership position in what’s supposed to be a tribal operation that primarily benefits the tribal nation.

The NIGC notice of violation was issued to the tribe in December 2022. Since then, Catawba leaders have been entangled in separation negotiations with Sky Boat, the latter which claimed it was owed $125 million to dissolve the partnership.

The two sides in May finally reached terms to go their separate ways, though details were not made public. But the tribe in March agreed to purchase less than 9.5 acres of rural land near where the casino is to be built for a staggering $40 million. The land was sold by an entity primarily owned by Cheves.

Delaware North Partnership

The Catawba Nation, a small tribe consisting of about 3,000 members, has partnered with New York-based gaming and hospitality giant Delaware North to bring to life Two Kings. The partners say the first phase of the permanent casino will include a single-story casino with 1,350 slots and electronic gaming machines, 12 live dealer table games, a sportsbook with 30 self-service betting kiosks, and a 40-seat restaurant.

The initial phase of the resort is expected to open in early 2026 and employ 420 people. The remaining phases will expand the so-called “introductory casino” to include 4,300 slots, 100 tables, five restaurants, six bars, and a 400-room hotel.

Once complete, Two Kings Casino Resort will employ almost 2,000 people, tribal leaders say.

North Carolina’s two federally recognized tribes — the Catawba Nation and the much larger Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians that owns Harrah’s Cherokee and Harrah’s Cherokee Valley River — scored a major win recently when efforts in Raleigh to bring commercial casinos to the state failed to materialize.