Casino near Charlotte? Catawba Tribe to sue SC for gaming rights - WBTV 3 News, Weather, Sports, and Traffic for Charlotte, NC

Casino near Charlotte? Catawba Tribe to sue SC for gaming rights

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CATAWBA INDIAN NATION, SC (WBTV) - Move over Cherokee Casino, the Catawba Indian Nation wants a piece of the action and plans to go to great lengths to do so.

Catawba Indian Nation Chief William Harris sent out a press release stating they plan to sue the State of South Carolina for the right to open a casino on the Reservation.

"The Catawba nation is simply asking South Carolina to honor promises the State made us in 1993," said Harris. "We love South Carolina and hope to proceed with a development plan that would bring thousands of jobs and millions of dollars to York County.

 The facility we propose would be restricted to reservation land and bring nothing but positive results to an economy badly in need of economic development."

If the Catawba Tribe is successful in asserting its gaming rights, Chief Harris stressed that all gaming would be restricted to reservation property where the Catawba Tribe was promised gaming rights by federal and state law nearly 20 years ago.

The lawsuit asserts that the State of South Carolina is obligated to honor the promises contained in the Settlement Agreement and the failure to do so has deprived the Tribe of its legitimate claims. The Settlement came only after many years of struggle.

According to the Settlement Agreement, signed during the administration of Governor Carroll Campbell, the Tribe was promised the ability to offer "…electronic play devices to the same extent that the devices are authorized by state law."

More recently, South Carolina passed the Gambling Cruise Act, which authorizes by state law the operation of numerous electronic gaming devices.  Under the terms of the Settlement, the Tribe believes that it should be able to offer those same games.

Included, was a 17 page economic impact study showing how much the Casino would benefit York and Lancaster Counties.

The proposed 220 thousand square foot gaming facility would be surrounded by two hotels and numerous other retail outlets,  all brining close to 4,000 thousand jobs with it.

Big ambitions considering there are currently no stores of any type inside the reservation.

There are only two convenience stores near the reservation and shop owners say they would welcome the boost in business.

However, Vernon Passmore who is not a member of the tribe but lives near the reservation says the casino may bring more than business to the area.

 "It may have negative down falls with traffic and probably a higher crime rate," said Passmore.

In the late 90s the tribe opened a Bingo Hall in Rock Hill but after the South Carolina Education Lottery came to town the bingo hall saw a loss in revenue and closed the doors in 2002.

The Catawba's sued the state back in 2006 for rights to have video poker machines on the reservation and even took the suit to the US supreme court but failed.

Because of those past failures Passmore thinks the Catawba casino will never happen.

"I don't believe gambling in this neighborhood would be a good thing," said Passmore.

But if it does happen the projected economic impact would be more than$500 million in the first year.

Casinos are huge money-makers.  UNC Chapel Hill studied the Cherokee reservation in Western North Carolina. The Casino there opened in 1997. It brought in more than $380 million dollars in 2010.

Before the recession - it peaked at $449 million.

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