A long-awaited casino project in Kings Mountain, North Carolina, has received a much-needed thumbs-up from federal officials.
Barring a legal setback, the Catawba Indian Nation development now expects to offer slot machines by the summer before expanding toward its full roll-out in subsequent months.
The casino resort will provide a major economic boost to an area less than one hour removed from downtown Charlotte. It will also provide the state with a third legal casino.
New casino on the horizon in North Carolina
Approval of a revenue-sharing agreement between the Catawba Nation and Gov. Roy Cooper by the US Department of the Interior’s Bureau of Indian Affairs represents a major step forward for the casino project.
Most important, it means construction can begin in earnest on the $273 million casino resort. It will rest on 17 acres off I-85 in Kings Mountain.
In addition, the casinos will create some 2,600 permanent jobs, according to reports.
“This project will prove to be a long-lasting and sustainable economic engine for the residents of Cleveland County. We are excited about the expedited timeline,” Johnny Hutchins, the Cleveland County commissioner, said in a statement.
Conversely, the project has been opposed by Catawba Nation’s main competitor, the South Carolina-based Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians.
The Cherokee Band has argued in court that the Kings Mountain land was improperly given to the Catawba Nation and historically belongs to the Cherokees. A lawsuit has also accused the Catawba Nation of scheming with a developer to push the project forward.
Leaders of the Cherokee Band hope this will halt the project and invalidate the Catawba’s existing compact with the state.
Catawba says slots available by summer
To meet demand, the Catawba Nation will open prefabricated structures this summer.
The early-open site will offer 500 slots and a limited food-and-drink menu.
“With the completion of our compact with the state of North Carolina, the Catawba Nation is eager to open the casino as quickly as possible to begin bringing economic benefits and jobs to the state and region,” Catawba Chief Bill Harris said in a statement.
He described the opening of a “pre-launch facility” that will then lead into the casino’s introductory phase.
That 60,000-square-foot introductory location expects to open by September and offer 1,300 additional slot machines. The site will eventually roll into the full, permanent facility upon the casino’s completion.
“It makes sense to have the temporary pre-launch facility to start, and it will continue to operate during the construction of the introductory phase and possibly subsequent phases,” said Brian Hansberry, Delaware North’s president of gaming business.
“It gives us a place to teach incoming staff and accommodates people in the region who are anxious to start gaming this summer.”
Georgians driven to North Carolina casinos
Georgia’s inability to pass sports betting legislation means residents must travel to other states with legalized wagering, such as Tennessee or North Carolina, which saw two casinos open retail sportsbooks in time for March Madness.
The sportsbooks are located at Harrah’s Cherokee Valley River Casino in Murphy and Harrah’s Cherokee Casino in Cherokee. Caesars Entertainment manages both casinos, which feature William Hill sportsbooks.
As Georgia also doesn’t have casinos, these North Carolina locations become more attractive for Georgian customers. Now, another option could soon crop up, assuming all goes to plan.