Catawba Tribe to Start Work on $273m North Carolina Casino With Revenue-Sharing Compact in Hand

  • Gov. Roy Cooper's January 22 signed agreement is now pending Interior Department approval
  • Casino resort could contribute a $5m to $10m annual share of gaming revenue to the state
  • Tribe plans to open a temporary gaming facility while the Two Kings is under construction
  • North Carolina's Eastern Band of Cherokees filed a lawsuit to try to block the project
Map zoomed-in on North Carolina
North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper has signed a casino gaming revenue-sharing compact with the Catawba Indian Nation as construction on the Two Kings Casino Resort begins. [Image: Shutterstock.com]

Awaiting federal approval

North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper has signed a casino revenue-sharing compact with the Catawba Indian Nation in connection with a soon-to-be-built casino facility in the state. The agreement now awaits the green light from the US Department of the Interior.

The Catawba tweeted out the news of the January 22 agreement on Saturday:

The compact allows the tribe to start offering Class III casino gaming in its planned Two Kings Casino Resort in the City of Kings Mountain, Cleveland County, pending federal approval. Games such as blackjack, roulette, craps, baccarat, and slot machines would all be permitted. As a result of the governor signing the agreement on Friday, construction can now start on the resort project. 

tribe to start offering Class III casino gaming in its planned Two Kings Casino Resort

Catawba Nation Chief William Harris welcomed the new compact, stating that it will help generate thousands of jobs and deliver economic benefits to the region. 

Casino projections and plans

The Catawba tribe expects to get approval from the federal authorities, as the compact is very much like the one that the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians has agreed with the state. Even the revenue payment terms of the two compacts are similar. The Cherokee currently operate the only two casinos in South Carolina.

state’s share of revenue from the tribe’s casino gaming business would amount to a projected $5m to $10m each year

In an official news release, Chief Harris said the state’s share of revenue from the tribe’s casino gaming business would amount to a projected $5m to $10m each year. Some casino funds will go towards helping the Catawba Nation, other recognized tribes in the state, and the local community.

The planned casino facility is located about 30 minutes from Charlotte and will cost approximately $273m. The tribe is currently looking to secure financing for the project, which has been in the planning phase for more than seven years. Following a ground-breaking held in July 2020, preparatory work started on the site ahead of its development. 

The tribe plans to open a temporary gaming facility at the location by fall 2021. Currently, the casino operation has permission to offer Class I and Class II gaming, allowing for bingo and other activities. 

Rival tribe opposes the Two Kings

In March 2020, the Catawba Nation got federal approval to purchase a 16-acre site for the casino resort. The US Interior Department then put the land into trust, granting the tribe the right to build a casino. 

Following approval, the Cherokee filed a lawsuit in federal court against the Catawba Nation and the US Interior Department, in an effort to block the construction of the new casino resort. The pending suit claims that Wallace Cheves, the local developer appointed for the project, applied political pressure to get the green light for the Two Kings without the need for Congressional approval.

The Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians labeled the casino project “a modern day land grab”, claiming that the project site is on Cherokee historical territory. The two tribes have a long-running dispute over land claims.

As well as developing the casino resort, South Carolina-based Cheves is hoping to build approximately 600 luxury apartments and houses close to the casino.

In reaction to the revenue-sharing deal between the state of North Carolina and the Catawba Nation, the Eastern Band’s Principal Chief Richard Sneed said the compact will not change anything. He added that the tribe plans to continue fighting the issue, claiming that when the courts confirm the illegality of the casino, “the Catawba agreement will be nothing more than a worthless piece of paper.”