The Catawba Tribe of South Carolina, which operates the Catawba Two Kings Casino in Kings Mountain, has preliminarily elected Brian Harris as tribal chief.
Brian Harris and his opponent Jason Harris, distant cousins, have long histories serving the tribe. Brian Harris’ election comes after sitting Chief Bill Harris, no relation, decided not to seek re-election.
The tribe will have a short window to challenge any election results, but, in the interim, Jason Harris congratulated Brian Harris through social media, saying, “I’d like to congratulate Brian Harris on being elected chief of the Catawba Nation.”
The preliminary vote totals, per a Catawba press release:
Brian Harris: 457
Jason Harris: 365
Brian Harris plans to tackle Two Kings expansion straight away
Construction on the permanent Catawba Two Kings Casino in Kings Mountain has been slowed since a federal investigation by the National Indian Gaming Commission interrupted work in August 2022.
Since then, the tribe has worked with federal regulators to conclude the investigation so it can get on with plans to build the 195,000-square-foot, 1,500-room North Carolina casino and hotel.
In February, the Catawba Nation Gaming Authority released a statement indicating that construction had begun again on “key infrastructure projects” like widening a nearby bridge and constructing new sewer lines. However, construction on the casino has not begun.
In an interview with the News & Observer last week, Brian Harris addressed the Catawba Two Kings Casino in light of both the delayed expansion and draft legislation in the North Carolina Legislature that would add up to four more casinos in the state, with one in the southeast run by the Lumbee Tribe.
“I feel like our philosophy six months ago was ‘build it and they will come,’ ” Brian Harris said. “But now that we’re going to (possibly) be surrounded by competition, we have to do it the right way. We don’t want to build something so big that even though you’ve got 1,000 patrons in there, it looks empty, so we’re gonna have to adjust to the market, and be more marketable.”
Since construction on the main structure of the Two Kings Casino has not yet begun, Harris’ statement could indicate that the tribe may need to consider downsizing the original plans.
NC casino landscape is changing fast
When the tribe started construction, the Two Kings Casino was the least-remote casino option for North Carolinians. Sitting about 30 miles west of Charlotte, it could be easily accessed from the state’s largest city. Despite its temporary status, its location made it the easiest option for casino gambling and retail sports betting for all major metro areas in the state.
With the addition of the Danville Casino across the border in Virginia and the possible casino expansion in North Carolina, the Catawba are likely considering that more gambling options will chip away at its market share.
Further, with the recent signing into law of online sports betting in North Carolina, the Catawba Tribe may want to turn more attention to generating revenue through a mobile wagering license. The state granted Catawba and the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians, which operates the two Harrah’s casinos in the far-western parts of the state, mobile licenses in the new sports betting law.
Regardless of how Brian Harris plans to advance with the tribe’s casino gaming future, he’s said, “I’m ready to go right now.”
Image Credit: Jeffrey Collins / AP Photo