The Catawba Indian Nation announced that they will be breaking ground on a new casino resort near Charlotte, NC, on Wednesday. The $300 million project is set to be completed by next summer if all goes according to plan.
The Catawba Indian Nation is moving forward with its plans, even though a rival tribe has filed a lawsuit to try to stop the project. The Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians (EBCI) currently owns and operates the only two casinos in North Carolina, and they do not want another tribe to steal their revenue.
In March, the Catawba Indian Nation had an application approved that allowed them to take 16 acres of land in Kings Mountain, NC. This allowed the tribe to pursue a new casino project, and they moved quickly to develop these plans.
The Catawbas are based in the state of South Carolina, and this is the first time that they have been able to acquire land in another state. South Carolina has very strict gaming laws, which is why they searched for new land in North Carolina.
Issue Now in Hands of Courts
The ECBI immediately filed a lawsuit in federal court after the Catawbas were approved for the new land. This lawsuit has since been amended, and tribal leaders of ECBI are hoping that the project is stopped.
The Cherokee Nation that is based out of Oklahoma has since joined in on the lawsuit, which could give the ECBI more power. The Cherokee Nation has claimed that they have artifacts on the site where the new casino will be built, and they need these artifacts preserved.
Another major issue being argued in this lawsuit is how the Catawba Nation even came up with the idea to apply for land in North Carolina. The ECBI claims that this was done as a form of “reservation shopping.”
This term refers to a casino developer that is looking for tribal land to build a new casino. The suit claims that a man by the name of Wallace Cheves sought out the Catawbas and was able to convince them to apply for land in North Carolina.
Federal officials or the Catawba tribal leaders have responded to the amended lawsuit, but the project is set to begin in two days. The ECBI has filed for an injunction to stop the project from taking place, and they also want the land taken away from the tribe.
The Cherokee Nation wants an environmental impact study done at the site before any digging takes place. It’s unclear when an official ruling will take place, but at this time, the project is still on track to begin.
Virginia Could Also Steal Customers
The state of Virginia recently passed a new law to expand gambling in their state, and that could spell trouble for the EBCI as well. Voters in the state will be voting on a referendum in November, and five cities could see new casinos be built next year.
Bristol is one of the cities that is able to build a casino, and that city is less than 100 miles away from Harrah’s Cherokee Casino Resort. The city of Danville is almost 200 miles away, but they are also looking to get a casino built. If this were to occur, the new casino could lure customers out of North Carolina.
The EBCI has enjoyed growth and success over the last 20 years, but they are finally facing some real competition for the very first time. The court case and the results of the vote in November could determine the fate of EBCI and its gaming industry.