Catawba Two Kings Casino probed by US federal officials
The National Indian Gaming Commission (NIGC) has launched a federal investigation into the Catawba Two Kings Casino development located 30 miles west of Charlotte, North Carolina. Construction on the $273 million project will be held off while the probe continues.
According to reports, the NIGC halted Catawba Nation’s plans for its casino resort in Kings Mountain in order to ensure that an important condition in the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act (IGRA) was met: that the tribe was the official beneficiary of the gaming activity.
Bill Harris, the Catawba Chief, released a statement that revealed the two sides were currently cooperating to resolve the issue. He said, “To the extent that the NIGC has identified areas of concern, we have made corrections or are now actively engaged in resolving those concerns with them.”
People reported to have profited from the Two Kings Casino project are known politicians or people with ties to influential personnel, such as John Clyburn – the brother of US Representative James Clyburn, who previously prevented the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians (EBCI) in Carolina from suing the federal government.
He sponsored the Catawba Lands Act bill that fended off the EBCI’s attempts to sue the federal government after they approved the Catawba’s controversial attempt to take 17 acres of North Carolina land into trust.
Other people who have profited from the casino are Michael Haley – the husband of Nikki Haley, South Carolina’s previous Republican governor. Patti Solis Doyle Adlai, a well-known Democratic campaign organizer, also benefited from the gaming venue. Both are linked to Kings Mountain Equipment Supply, a company that receives 20% of the Catawba casino earnings.
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This is not the first time concern has been raised over whether tribes are the primary beneficiaries of gaming activity. The NIGC and the US Department of the Interior have both raised concerns over previous gaming agreements after conducting investigations.
One such occasion was when the NIGC informed the Seneca Nation about a court-ordered payment to be made to the state of New York. The sum was a result of a disagreement over revenue-sharing payments.
The Seneca Nation eventually paid $564 million after the state almost froze the accounts owned by the tribe. The Chief Compliance Officer of NIGC, Tom Cunningham, had also previously cautioned the leaders that the payment must be made with “something meaningful” to the tribe or else it could violate the IGRA.
Due to South Carolina prohibiting gaming in their state, the Catawba Nation had to resort to North Carolina land in order to build its gaming venue. The legal challenge between the EBCI and the federal government ended in December 2021 when President Joe Biden signed the defense bill into law. The bill included the Catawba Indian Nation Lands Act and recognized the 17 acres of North Carolina land taken into trust.
The Catawba opened a temporary gaming venue on the land with around 500 slot machines in July. The construction of the permanent venue for the casino is being worked on by SOSHNY Architects, Skyboat Gaming, and Delaware North.
The temporary gaming venue is still operating and expanding in the meantime. The officials announced in October that the venue would be expanded to double its original size to cater to the growth. The new games included electronic table games as well as a high-limit area and officially opened on December 16.
The new casino will reportedly have around 1,800 gaming devices. It is also expected to help the area’s economy by providing approximately 2,600 jobs as well as a multitude of positions in construction.