Catawba Leaders Respond to Two Kings Media Reports, Call NIGC Review ‘Standard’

The Catawba Nation Executive Committee issued a statement late Thursday responding to Sunday’s Wall Street Journal article about its Two Kings Casino, saying that the South Carolina-based tribe is “committed to full compliance” with federal and its own gaming laws.

Officials from the Catawba Nation cut the ribbon to celebrate the opening of the tribal nation’s temporary casino last year in Kings Mountain, NC. On Thursday, the Catawba’s Executive Committee issued a statement responding to a Wall Street Journal article about the permanent casino project, which has been delayed. (Image: Catawba Nation/Facebook)

The Journal article focused on numerous individuals connected to politicians and how they were tied to a company leasing gaming equipment to the tribe’s Two Kings Casino, which is located in Kings Mountain, NC. The article also noted that the construction on the $273 million permanent casino was delayed due partly to an “open investigation” by the National Indian Gaming Commission (NIGC).

Catawba officials criticized some media coverage stemming from the Journal’s report and claimed some reports “leapt to the false conclusion” public officials or their relatives were under an NIGC investigation.

Rather, the NIGC is conducting its standard investigation as it reviews the tribe’s gaming agreements and gaming operations,” the statement said.

The statement said that investigation is focused solely on whether the Catawba Nation is the “sole proprietary interest” in Two Kings Casino, which is required under the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act (IGRA). Matters regarding the individuals named in the Journal report fall out of the NIGC’s purview.

Temporary Casino Open for More Than a Year

More than a year ago, the Catawba Nation opened a temporary gaming facility on the 17-acre plot in North Carolina, roughly 30 minutes west of Charlotte. It initially opened with 500 gaming machines, but it has since expanded to now hold 1,000. In June, plans were announced for a retail sportsbook to open at the casino.

The permanent casino, which is expected to generate 2,600 full-time jobs and thousands more for construction, is supposed to take about a year to build, according to the tribe’s previous announcements. That venue will hold up to 1,800 gaming machines.

“The Catawba Nation continues to work closely with the NIGC on its standard review of our casino project,” the tribe’s Executive Committee stated. “NIGC is reviewing all agreements, and our tribe, just like any other tribe in the country, is required to follow any amendments or requirements presented to us by NIGC.”

Two Kings ‘Thoroughly Reviewed’

The Catawba Nation was forced to go to North Carolina to build its casino after South Carolina officials refused to allow Class III gaming.

However, the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians, which operates two casinos in western North Carolina, objected to the Catawba’s plans, challenging them in federal court. Late last year, though, Congress passed a defense spending bill that included a provision recognizing the 17 acres of land taken into trust by the federal government. When President Biden signed that bill into law, it ended the EBCI’s efforts to stop the Catawba casino in court.

US Rep. Jim Clyburn sponsored the legislation recognizing the Catawba land that was included in the defense bill. According to the Journal, Clyburn’s brother John Clyburn holds a share of the equipment company. The lawmaker told the Journal he was not aware of his brother’s interest in the casino.

Catawba leaders on Thursday defended the process of how their tribe acquired the land for the casino.

“The Two Kings project was thoroughly reviewed by the Department of Interior and affirmed by a federal court,” the statement said. “The related legislation, which applied strict federal Indian gaming laws to the project, went through a fully transparent hearing process with Congress.”

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