Government to protect Catawba Nation casino

The $273 million Two Kings casino and resort has been given its support by the US government. According to the Catawba, the construction of the casino will provide thousands of construction jobs and employ roughly 2,600 permanent employees.

By Darren - February 23, 2022

The government have now officially recognised a measure supporting the Catawba Indian Nation’s Two Kings Casino project.

If there was ever a chance that the South Carolina tribe’s building of a casino in North Carolina may face a new challenge, it has now vanished. President Joe Biden signed the Catawba Nation Indian Nation Lands Act into law at the very end of last year. The National Defense Authorization Act now includes it. The law according to Catawba chief William Harris represents the final step in a decade-long effort to gain government authorization for the casino.

Despite the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians’ continuing opposition, the casino has been under construction for some time.

They contended that the Catawba had no claim to the property in North Carolina. The Catawba, on the other hand, was not convinced. A recent ruling by the Department of the Interior sided with the South Carolina tribe regarding the casino.

The Cherokee people claim the territory as their original home.

The Department of the Interior put the area in trust for the Rock Hill-based Catawba Indians in March 2020. Thereby designating it as the tribe’s aboriginal land. A US District Court dismissed the EBCI’s most recent case. The EBCI has since filed an appeal.

There was also another opposition. Gambling is opposed by the North Carolina Family Policy Council. It is a nonprofit education and research organization created in 1991 with the declared goal of defending Judeo-Christian principles. They have called the move a dangerous precedent noting that it is the first time Congress has enacted legislation to build an off-reservation tribal casino. There are certain casinos that are not on the reservation system, however. According to the Bureau of Indian Affairs, a casino needs to be within commutable distance of the reservation. The Secretary of the Interior must determine that the casino will not be harmful to the community and will benefit the tribe.

The incorporation into the legislation of the land act will certainly have a substantial impact on the Eastern Band’s appeal. The Catawba Nation Lands Act gives the Department of Interior’s decision federal support.

Any challenge to the Catawba ownership of the land becomes a question of federal law now. A legal challenge to the casino will not be able to change that.

The Catawba Two Kings Casino was able to hold a soft launch in July with 500 machines in a trailer. It was right in the middle of the building site off an exit ramp in Kings Mountain. The casino was so successful that the tribe increased the number of machines to 1,000 a few months later. This was on the same day that Congress enacted the National Defense Authorization Act. The tribe was once again put at odds with the Cherokees, who had previously managed the sole casinos in North Carolina. Harrah’s Cherokee Hotel and Casino have over 1,000 slot machines, as well as video gaming and table games.

The Cherokee have not yet commented on the NDAA, but in a statement on its website, the tribe opposes the Department of Interior’s decision. It attached documentation to back its view that the land belongs to the Cherokee and court filings arguing for the land’s restoration. The statement outlined the “flawed” decision which they believe is a clear example of reservation shopping. This is the process of casino developers matching a willing Indian tribe with a city or county that is open to a casino. It then asks the federal government to create a new reservation outside the willing tribe’s aboriginal territory.  

Catawba Tribal Chief Bill Harris stated that he expects the NDAA will have a significant impact on the Cherokee’s federal lawsuit against the Department of Interior and Bureau of Indian Affairs. He congratulated North Carolina senators Thom Tillis and Richard Burr for their contributions to the rule’s passing.  He hopes that the Catawba Indian Nation Lands Act will reinforce the US Department of Interior’s recognition of their historical and ancestral links to North Carolina. 

The full project, which includes a $273 million casino and resort, is still under construction.

Although an opening date has not yet been set, a temporary, smaller location is presently open. The bill was introduced in the US House of Representatives by Majority Whip Jim Clyburn.

According to the Catawba, the construction of the casino will provide thousands of construction jobs. Eventually, it will also employ roughly 2,600 permanent employees thereby boosting the local economy. They hope that this legislation means more people will have higher incomes. Also that children will receive a better education and more people will have better housing and health care. 

The congressman said he is glad to have worked with his colleagues in both the House and Senate to pass this bipartisan legislation. He has stated he believes the Catawba Indian Nation Lands Act is a very major step toward addressing historic injustices against the Catawba Indian Nation.  This bill will be critical in ensuring the Catawba Indian Nation’s economic independence.

Except for Rep. Dan Bishop, who objected to aspects of the bill’s military requirements, every member of North Carolina’s delegation voted in support of the NDAA. The law passed with an overwhelming majority of 89-10 in the Senate and 361-55 in the House. Senators Chuck Schumer, Thom Tillis, Lindsay Graham, and Richard Burr backed it in the Senate. Clyburn, together with Representatives Alma Adams, David Price, William Timmons, Joe Wilson, and G.K. Butterfield sponsored the bill in the House. 

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