(The Center Square) – North Carolina has entered into an agreement with the Catawba Indian Nation to share revenue from a new casino operated by the tribe.
The agreement, also known as a compact, was signed by Gov. Roy Cooper. It allows the South Carolina-based Catawbas to seek federal approval for casino-style gaming at its new Two Kings Casino in Kings Mountain.
If the U.S. Department of Interior approves the revenue-sharing agreement, the final construction of the $237 million casino would be completed in 2022, according to the tribe.
The federal government estimates the casino could generate $428 million a year in economic benefits for Cleveland County, create more than 2,600 jobs and millions in tax revenue. The first phase of the casino could be completed as early as this fall.
"On behalf of the Catawba Nation, I sincerely thank Gov. Roy Cooper and his team for their thoughtful collaboration in creating this compact, which is the key step in bringing economic benefits and thousands of jobs from our casino project to the citizens of North Carolina," Catawba Chief Bill Harris said in a statement.
Catawba leaders said they do not anticipate "any special difficulties" with the compact's approval. The local Eastern Band of the Cherokee, however, has sued the Department of Interior and the Catawbas to stop the casino from opening. According to casino.org, an independent online gaming authority, the Cherokee's lawsuit is part of a longstanding battle between the two tribes over whether the Catawbas have the right to open a casino in North Carolina.
"The land at issue, the Kings Mountain Site, sits squarely within Cherokee's treaty territory," the lawsuit said.
The Cherokee tribe has two casinos in North Carolina, located in Cherokee and Murphy. The Catawbas said their compact is similar to one the state has with the Cherokees.
The state will receive a percentage of the Catawbas live table gaming proceeds, projected to reach $5 million to $10 million a year. The tribe also will pay the state an oversight fee of $191,000 and fund a $7.5 million education fund to support local communities and tribes. The Catawbas also will make payments to Cleveland County instead of taxes.
"We support the State of North Carolina recognizing the casino project's tremendous economic benefit to Cleveland County," Cleveland County Manager Brian Epley said. "We are pleased that a compact has been signed that establishes a collaborative partnership with this tribe and the State of North Carolina."