Catawba Two Kings Casino Set for July 1 Pre-Launch

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Thursday will be a milestone for the Catawba Nation as its Catawba Two Kings Casino”pre-launch” facility will open to the public.

The launch comes after the federal government approved the revenue sharing pact between the Catawba Nation and the state of North Carolina. That agreement was signed off by the Department of Interior’s Bureau of Indian Affairs last March.

Pre-Launch Site

Constructed using prefabricated modulars, the pre-launch site in Kings Mountain, North Carolina is set to offer 500 slot machines spread across 14,700 square feet of gaming area.

The initial casino will be smoke-free but smoking areas will be designated outside the temporary casino. Aside from a snack bar and service bar, food trucks will also be positioned in the property.

The construction of the pre-launch site began three months ago and it has employed 250 people on site. According to Catawba assistant chief Jason Harris, around 25% of the construction workers are from the tribe, including all the slot technicians.

Construction of Permanent Facility

The next phase of the master plan begins later this year when construction of the $273M permanent casino at the same site commences. That part of the project broke ground in July 2020 and is expected to be completed in about a year.

Situated off Dixon School Road in Kings Mountain, Cleveland County, the 17-acre site is near Interstate 85 and about 35 miles west off Charlotte. Once completed, it will have a total of 1,800 slot machines and gaming table seats.

The Catawba Two Kings Casino will employ 2,600 employees but its residual impact will create thousands more. According to officials, an estimated 4,000 permanent jobs will open up for the community.

Years in the Making

The Catawba Nation has been pursuing a casino for eight years now. However, their initial efforts to develop one in South Carolina, where they have a property in near Rock Hill, failed.

Then on March 2020, the US Department of Interior took 17 acres of land in Cleveland County into trust for the tribe in recognition of their ancestral ties to the region. At the start of this year, the Gov. Roy Cooper and the Catawba Nation agreed on a Class III gaming compact, which the Bureau of Indian Affairs approved a couple of months later.

The Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians, who operate the two current casinos in North Carolina, filed a lawsuit to block the casino. However, a federal judge in the District of Columbia ruled in favor of the Catawba last April. The EBCI tribe has since filed an appeal.

Eastern Band of Cherokees to Appeal Federal Ruling that Allowed Construction of Catawba Casino

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The Eastern Bank of Cherokee Indiana made an appeal last Friday contesting a federal ruling that allowed the Rock Hill-based Catawba Indian Nation to build a North Carolina casino.

In a statement issued on Saturday, Principal Chief Richard Sneed said that the tribe continues to believe that the U.S. Department of Interior violated the law in approving the Catawba casino. According to Sneed, the appeal is just “the next step in the process to ensure that justice is done”.

The Catawbas have started constructing a temporary gaming facility on the site and it is expected to open this fall. Eventually, the $273M Two Kings Casino resort will be build in the property and it is expected to create 2,600 jobs and bring an estimated $308M in economic activity.

The Cherokees’ Argument

The Cherokee have argued that there is no precedent for the federal government to take land into trust that isn’t connected to and is located across the state lines from existing tribal lands. Meanwhile, both the Cherokee and Catawba claimed that the property in question is located one their ancestral lands and that the other tribe has no claim over it.

In its case to state and federal representatives, the Cherokee Bank of Indians also stated that the planned Catawba casino would strike a big blow to their thriving casino business. The Cherokees estimated that the new Catawba casino would lead to a potential revenue loss of $100M per year.

Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians

The Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians are a federally-recognized Indian tribe based in West North Carolina. They own the only other casinos permitted by the state, with both casinos located in the North Carolina Mountains.

Harrah’s Cherokee Casino operates west of Asheville, near Maggie Valley which is three hours west of Charlotte. Meanwhile, Harrah’s Cherokee Valley River Casino is near Georgia and Tennessee and is a four-hour drive from Charlotte.

Eastern Bank of Cherokee Indians To Purchase Caesars Southern Indiana For $280M

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Caesars Entertainment has entered into an agreement to divest Caesars Southern Indiana to The Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians for $280M. In an announcement, the Las Vegas-based gambling company said that it is extending the Caesars brand to one of its long-time partners.

Said Caesars Entertainment Inc. CEO Tom Reeg:

“Expanding our relationship with the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians is an exciting event for Caesars Entertainment. Since our partnership began back in 1996, we have admired their growth and the success of their properties.”

The Caesars Southern Indiana opened in 1998 as the Horseshoe Southern Indiana, a riverboat casino on the Ohio River. It became a $90M 100,000 square foot land-based casino in 2019 under Caesars. But after the latter’s $17.3B merger with Eldorado, Caesars was ordered to sell the Indiana casino by December 31st.

Extending Their Long-Standing Relationship

The sale of the Indiana casino is expected to close in the third business quarter of 2021. After the closing of the transaction, Caesars and EBCI will extend their long-standing relationship by entering into a long-term agreement for the continued use of the Caesars brand and Caesars Rewards Loyalty Program at Caesars Southern Indiana.

In addition, the EBCI will enter into a new lease agreement with a year one rental of $32.5M with VICI who maintains the ownership of the real estate. As a result of this transaction, Caesars’ annual payments to VICI Properties under the regional master lease will be decreased by $32.5M.

A Sovereign Nation

J.P. Morgan and Watkins LLP will represent Caesars Entertainment in the sale of the Indiana casino. Meanwhile, Innovation Capital LLC and Brownstein Hyatt Farber Schreck will represent the Eastern Band of Cherokee indians. The transaction is still subject to regulatory approval and other customary closing conditions.

The Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians is a sovereign nation. As such, it has its own laws, elections, government, institutions, and the likes. The own and operate two casinos in North Carolina. The tribe operates two casinos in North Carolina.