he Catawba Indian Nation said Friday it had reached an agreement with state leaders for a Class III gaming compact, which allows high-stakes table games and slot machines at its $273 million casino project in Kings Mountain. The agreement was approved by North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper, and it will now go to the U.S. Department of the Interior for final approval.
Without the compact, the tribe could only have Class I and Class II gaming at the casino. Class II gaming includes bingo and non-banked card games, according to the American Gaming Association.
The Catawbas are only the second group in North Carolina to receive a compact for Class III gaming, the other being the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians, which owns two casinos in western N.C.
In addition to the ability to conduct traditional, casino-style gambling, the compact also included a revenue-sharing agreement between the Catawbas and the state. Tribal Administrator Elizabeth Harris told the Charlotte Business Journal the agreement is similar to the Cherokee compact. The state will receive a percentage of the tribe's live table gaming revenue, which Harris said is expected to reach $5 million to $10 million per year.
The tribe will also place $1 million into a fund to support federal and state-recognized tribes and assist local communities with economic development projects, Harris said. The fund is expected to reach a value of $7.5 million per year upon full buildout of the casino, she said.
The compact approval comes after 10 months since the casino project was first announced. In March, the U.S. Department of the Interior released its decision to put the 16.8-acre casino site into a trust for the Catawbas. The Catawbas broke ground on the $273 million resort project in July.
Interior Department's decision has been opposed in federal court by the Cherokees, whose case is pending but was recently expedited by a federal judge in Washington D.C. A hearing is now expected sometime in February, court documents say. On Sept. 24, the U.S. House Subcommittee for Indigenous Peoples of the United States held a hearing regarding H.R. 8255, or the Catawba Indian Nation Lands Act. The bill would reaffirm the Department of the Interior's decision in the face of sharp criticism of the project.
The development surrounding the casino is also beginning to take shape. Casino developer Wallace Cheves is planning a massive, three-phase residential development at a 118-acre site near the casino. The project, called Catawba Village, is the first known project for the hundreds of acres surrounding the casino site that have been purchased in recent months.