The permanent Catawba Two Kings Casino project in Kings Mountain was scuttled late last year in the wake of a federal investigation, but progress appears to have been made on its $273 million resort.
That’s good news for North Carolinians looking to enjoy casino gambling and sports betting in the Tar Heel State.
The construction delays resulted from a federal inquiry that found multiple violations of the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act (IGRA), specifically about the beneficiaries of the casino, which prohibits those not associated with a tribe from profiting from casino operations over a certain amount.
What was the investigation on the Catawba casino about?
The focus of the investigation dialed in on one of Catawba Two Kings’ partners in the project, Kings Mountain Sky Boat Partners LLC (Sky Boat), whose shareholders include Michael Haley, the husband of former South Carolina governor and current presidential candidate Nikki Haley, and John Clyburn, brother of longtime South Carolina US Rep. James Clyburn.
Violations found by the National Indian Gaming Commission indicated that the Catawba Two Kings Casino ran afoul of the law by signing contracts with Sky Boat that gave it managing authority over the casino. Said contracts were not “approved management contracts” under the National Indian Gaming Commission (NIGC).
Under federal law, “IGRA requires that tribes obtain the approval of the NIGC chair to enter into a management contract for the operation and management of a gaming operation.”
Further, regarding managing the casino, the NIGC saw that it was a “substantial violation of IGRA for a management contractor to operate a gaming operation without an approved management contract.”
Finally, the NIGC found that Kings Mountain Equipment Supply, a non-tribal company that provided the gaming machines at Catawba Two Kings, was scheduled to earn 20% of the profits. That percentage violated IGRA and the NIGC’s rules about how much non-tribal entities can earn from a tribal business.
With the resort project placed into a holding pattern, Catawba Two Kings has opened a temporary location. The temporary North Carolina casino is a no-frills operation that houses slots, electronic table games, and a retail sportsbook with over 30,000 square feet of retail gambling space.
What’s next for the $273 million North Carolina casino resort project?
The proposed permanent location with an on-site hotel will span approximately 195,000 square feet. Residents around Charlotte stand to benefit most from the final project, as Catawba Two Kings makes for an excellent day trip at only a 30-minute drive from the city.
Brian Harris, the recently-elected chief of the Catawba tribe, indicated that while expansion plans are still in the works, if the state were to legalize commercial casinos, the Catawba may need to re-think their expansion plans. The implication here is that commercial casinos would re-route Two Kings traffic to other in-state casino options.
The official Catawba Nation Chief Brian Harris Facebook page has also posted a link to an article decrying NC state lawmakers negotiating casino expansion as part of the state budget.
Glen White, director of communications for Delaware North, is consulting on the Catawba Tribe’s gaming operations. He’s optimistic that construction crews will soon break ground on the permanent casino facility but offers no definitive timetable.
In an article by WRAL-TV, White said:
“The Catawba Nation continues to work closely with the National Indian Gaming Commission on its review of our casino project and necessary agreements. While we don’t have a timetable for construction, infrastructure work is continuing on two key projects needed for the development of the permanent casino resort, both of which are being funded by the Catawba Nation: Doubling the size of the Dixon School Road Bridge over I-85 near the casino entrance and new sewer lines.
“We remain committed to protecting and growing our rights under IGRA in our aboriginal territories in North Carolina. Once we have resolved these issues and all parties are comfortable, we will proceed with scheduling construction.”
Trent Troxel, vice president of the Catawba Nation Gaming Authority, hinted that more updates would be passed along soon, but there is no formal timetable for construction to begin.
“Plans for the full casino resort are being finalized and necessary agreements are undergoing a thorough review by the National Indian Gaming Commission,” Troxel said in a post by Spectrum News 1. “A timetable for construction is anticipated to be announced later.”
North Carolina does not yet have online casino brands such as DraftKings Casino available.