Catawba Indian Nation casino in Kings Mountain drawn into federal investigation
August 1, 2022
The National Indian Gaming Commission or NIGC is currently investigating the Catawba Nation's Two Kings Casino over a potential breach of the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act or IGRA.
NIGC officials believe that the Catawba tribe is not the primary beneficiary of the gaming activity in the casino. Under the IGRA, "primary beneficiary" means that revenue-sharing payments to the state must come with "something meaningful" to the tribe in return.
Catawba Chief Bill Harris told the Wall Street Journal that "to the extent that NIGC has identified areas of concern, we have made corrections or are now actively engaged in resolving those concerns with them". Several people connected to prominent politicians reportedly have benefited from the Two Kings casino, which includes John Clyburn, brother of U.S. Rep. James Clyburn (D-SC), who introduced a bill in congress that cleared the way for the construction of the casino.
Several well-connected individuals also supported the construction besides Clyburn, such as the husband of former Republican South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley, Michael Haley, and Democratic political operative Patti Solis Doyle. They are reportedly connected to Kings Mountain Equipment Supply, a company that would receive 20 percent of the future casino's profits.
Catawbas land bill
The Catawbas previously required 17 acres of land for Two Kings Casino in North Carolina as South Carolina refused to allow gambling in the state. Clyburn then sponsored a bill that made the land in question federal trust land, which would ultimately allow the Catawbas to open the casino. This was legally challenged by the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians, who had opposed the construction of the Two Kings Casino since its inception. It previously claimed the land had a historical connection to the Cherokees, calling the bill a modern "land grab".
Clyburn later supported another bill (which was introduced by Lindsey Graham) that prevented the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians from suing the federal government over their decision to designate the Northern Carolina land as federal trust land.
In December, President Biden signed the bill into law, affirming the status of the land for the benefit of the Catawbas, making gaming activities conducted on that land subject to the IGRA and preventing the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians' legal challenge from continuing. "This is the first step towards rectifying the wrongs perpetrated against the Catawba Indian Nation and addressing the historical inequities they face," Clyburn tweeted after the White House announced the signing of the bill.
It should be noted, however, that the opposition from the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians did raise some questions in itself, as before the Two Kings Casino was established, the tribe owned the only two casinos in North Carolina.
Despite the legal hitch, the casino construction is still well underway, and its temporary casino currently remains operational. The temporary facility has doubled its gaming machines from 500 to 1,000 since it first opened.
Phase two of the casino is planned to be completed later this year. The grand opening of the casino and the resort is scheduled for 2023, with some hotel facilities to open in late 2022.
Tribal leaders expect the permanent Two Kings Casino would create up to 2,600 jobs and host up to 1,800 gaming machines, which they say would be a boon to the local economy.