Proposed casino in Kings Mountain facing mounting backlash

Published: Jul. 17, 2014 at 1:57 AM EDT|Updated: Aug. 15, 2014 at 10:02 PM EDT
Email This Link
Share on Pinterest
Share on LinkedIn

KINGS MOUNTAIN, NC (WBTV) - The plan to transform a field in Kings Mountain into a $340 million casino is meeting major backlash.

Today, Les Bernal, the national director of a group called Stop Predatory Gambling arrived to help a growing number of residents concerned with the project.

"Local citizens here, they're not pounding the table for a place to go lose their rent checks, their mortgage and their college tuition dollars," Bernal says.

And that loss is guaranteed, according to Bernal, because it's how casinos operate.

"There's a difference between the local Super Bowl office pool versus a business model that's based on exploiting people," he says. "The revenue model for casinos is one where they make 40 – 60% of their profits from people who are addicted to slot machines."

A Facebook page created in protest of the casino has more than 1200 likes.

"I oppose it strongly," says Marie Jackson, who lives nearby. "You could walk away penniless, and it prays on addictions and it's just not a good thing for King's Mountain. This is a nice little town and I like it that way."

But others say a casino could help the local economy.

"I think it's awesome for the community," says Lynne McKinney, also of Kings Mountain. "It'll be a big boost for the economy, jobs. Oh yeah, it'll be great. I mean a lot of people don't like gambling. But it makes jobs. And we need them badly in Cleveland County."

The Catawba Indian Tribe wants to build the project, and say it will create 4,000 jobs, which is why a long list of local officials - from the county manager to the Kings Mountain police chief - have written letters of support.

The letters try to debunk criticism like the claim that casinos create crime.

Writes County Manager David Dear "...the increased presence of law enforcement in gaming jurisdictions have led to a decrease in criminal activity in communities where they are located."

But the studies on everything from crime to economic health in communities with casinos are really pretty mixed.

We could not get elected officials to talk about the casino on camera Wednesday because it is their policy not to discuss economic projects before those projects are so-called "done deals."

The casino is in a holding pattern now as the U.S. bureau of Indian Affairs decides whether to place the property in trust.

Bernal will speak about the effects of casino development on communities Thursday, July 17th at 6:30pm at Family Worship Center in King's Mountain.

Copyright 2014 WBTV. All rights reserved.