The Catawba Indian Nation announced Friday that it would open a "pre-launch facility" with 500 slot machines this summer to fast-track the $273 million Catawba Two Kings Casino Resort in Kings Mountain.
The facility will create 200 jobs, according to a tribe representative. It will be constructed using prefabricated modular structures, and will provide an initial opportunity for patrons to game with limited food & beverage and other guest amenities. The announcement advances a timeline that showed a first phase for the project would open in late 2021.
The tribe is working with its casino operator, Delaware North, and developer Wallace Cheves' Skyboat Gaming to move along the project. A full first phase for the project is still planned, although it is now likely on target to open in early 2022. That initial phase will include 1,300 additional slot machines, the construction of which is expected to take about a year.
“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, president of Delaware North’s gaming business, as reported by Charlotte Business Journal. “It gives us a place to teach incoming staff and accommodates people in the region who are anxious to start gaming this summer.”
On Thursday, the Catawbas announced that the U.S. Department of the Interior approved its Class III gaming compact with the state. The Bureau of Indian Affairs signed off on the compact last week. The compact officially allows the Catawbas to operate traditional casino-style gambling at the project and includes a revenue-sharing agreement with the state.
Interior documents state the compact allows "various types of gaming, including raffles, video games, gaming machines, sports wagering and horse racing wagering, and live table games." Under the revenue-sharing agreement, the state will receive a portion of the tribe's live table gaming revenue from the project. Tribal Administrator Elizabeth Harris said earlier this year that revenue is expected to reach $5 million to $10 million per year.
“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 press release.
In July 2020, leaders of the tribe broke ground on land in Kings Mountain to build the new casino resort. The $273 million project is still facing opposition from another tribe. The Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians is suing to reverse the Interior Department's March 2020 decision to place the casino site into a trust for the Catawbas. The case is still pending in federal court.