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Casino likely to open in Kings Mountain after feds approve revenue agreement between N.C., Catawba tribe

Updated: Mar. 25, 2021 at 3:11 PM EDT
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CLEVELAND COUNTY, N.C. (WBTV/AP) - A casino is now likely to open in Kings Mountain after the federal government approved a revenue-sharing agreement between the Catawba Indian Nation and the state of North Carolina.

This seemingly clears the way for the casino to open near the state’s southern border.

The Bureau of Indian Affairs signed off on the compact last week.

The South Carolina tribe will offer Las Vegas-style gaming at a planned resort in Kings Mountain. The tribe says the casino could provide thousands of jobs to North Carolinians.

North Carolina currently has two casinos run by the Eastern Band of the Cherokees, who sued the Interior Department and the Catawba tribe last year to try to stop the new casino.

That suit is still pending in federal court.

In July 2020, leaders of the Catawba Nation tribe of South Carolina broke ground on land in Kings Mountain to build the new casino resort.

Local leaders, attorneys and Catawba Nation Chief William Harris all say the casino is happening - and it’s happening fast. They say the space, on Dixon School Road just off I-85, should become that resort as early as spring or summer of next year.

“I don’t know any word that will actually describe what it means to have a righting of a historical wrong,” Harris said. “If we have an opportunity to right a wrong, step toward it not away from it. And that’s what happened here.”

Local leaders, attorneys and Catawba Nation Chief William Harris break ground for a new casino...
Local leaders, attorneys and Catawba Nation Chief William Harris break ground for a new casino on Dixon School Road just off I-85 in Cleveland County.(Amanda Foster | WBTV)

The new casino will cost nearly $300 million and is expected to house restaurants, table games and 1,300 slots.

Catawba Nation worked years for the day.

The groundbreaking came after the tribe won federal approval for the land, and faced a lawsuit against the project by The Eastern Band of Cherokees who operate their own casinos in western North Carolina.

“Indigenous people have had a hard road of hope for many many years,” Harris said. “So if we can come together, then there’s a phrase out there: this is ‘strength in unity.' So instead of doing inner fighting, let’s unite and make something better.”

They say the project will create about 4,000 new jobs and provide economic benefits for Cleveland County and for South Carolina, where the Catawba Nation calls home.

”We’re going to be able to put schools on our reservation because we didn’t have economic development to develop that,” Harris said. “So when we talk about jobs, schools... not only does that effect Catawba, but it effects this area.”

Developers say this would start with a temporary casino, with slots and other games opening first. Then, about 18 more months of work for the full resort to be complete.

“This is an economically depleted area of North Carolina. So yes, Catawba is going to benefit from this, the citizens of Catawba are going to benefit from this,” Harris said. “If times get tougher, economy tightens up, it will effect the phases. So just know that the dollar will drive the development.”

Copyright 2020 WBTV. All rights reserved. Michelle Liu of The Associated Press contributed to this story.