Cherokee Tribal Council Approves $275M Expansion of Valley River Casino

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The Cherokee Tribal Council recently approved a master plan for a major expansion at the Valley River Casino in Murphy.

The approved master plan represents an investment of more than double the $110M spent to create the initial facility in 2015. The Valley River Casino opened with a gaming area of 50,000 square feet, 1,050 slot machines, 70 table games, and a food court type dining area. In 2018, 41,000 square feet of of entertainment area was added in a $13M renovation. To keep it edge over the competition, a large-scale expansion was needed.

Said Harrah’s Regional Vice President for Marketing Brian Saunooke:

“We’re thrilled with Tribal Council’s support of the resolution and are optimistic that Chief Sneed will ratify the resolution.”

A $275M Project Cost

According to the resolution, the Tribal Casino Gaming Enterprise will appoint JCJ Architecture to conceptualize and develop the project design while also providing for the cost estimate. For the project, the TCGE will obtain a loan not to exceed the amount of $275M.

The resolution did not name the projects in the master plan and the latter was not made public. However, key features in the expansion include an additional hotel tower, a new dining venue, a hotel lobby cafe, a spa, and indoor pool, additional gaming space, and additional parking.

North Carolina’s First Sports Betting Venues

Last March, the Cherokees partnered with Caesars Entertainment and William Hill U.S. to open the state’s first sports betting venues just in time for the NCAA’s March Madness. Dubbed as The Book, the sportsbooks opened at the Valley River Casino and at Harrah’s Cherokee Casino Resort in Cherokee.

The sportsbook at the Valley River Casino has a 32-foot ultra-high definition screen and comfortable reclining chairs. It boasts of a total of gour ticket-writer windows and five self-service betting kiosks.

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.

Catawba Indian Nation to Fast-Track North Carolina Casino Opening

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The Catawba Indian Nation announced on Friday that they will “fast track” the opening of part of its $273M North Carolina casino.

According to tribal leaders, a facility for a “pre-launch” will open this summer at their project site off Interstate 85 at Dixon School Road in Kings Mountain, about 35 miles west of Charlotte. The temporary site will have 500 slot machines.

The announcement came after the Catawba tribe received confirmation of the approval of their revenue-sharing agreement with the state.

Said Catawba Chief Bill Harris in a statement on Friday:

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. We’re working with Delaware North, our consultant on the Catawba Two Kings Casino Resort project, as well as our developer, Skyboat Gaming, to make that happen by opening what we are calling a ‘pre-launch’ facility this summer.”

Revenue Agreement Gets Federal Approval

Last Thursday, the U.S. Department of Interior’s Bureau of Indian Affairs concluded its 45-days review and approved the revenue sharing agreement that the Catawba Tribe forged with North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper in mid-January.

In a letter dated March 19th, Bureau of Internal Affairs director Darryl LaCounte informed the Catawba Tribe and Gov. Cooper that their pact complies with the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act and other provisions of the federal law. The approval takes effect when the approval notice has been published in the Federal Register.

The 17 acre North Carolina casino, which will be dubbed as Catawba Two Kings Casino Resort, is expected to create thousands of construction jobs. Once it is fully operational, state officials say that 2,600 permanent jobs will be generated.

Prelaunch Facility and Introductory Building

Harris said that the pre-launch facility will be made up of prefabricated modular structures and will offer limited food and beverage options plus other guest amenities. An introductory phase of the North Carolina casino is also planned and will feature and additional of 1,300 slot machines.

That “introductory” building will be part of the permanent structure that will form part of the full casino and will take one year of construction to complete. While this introductory phase building is under construction, the “pre-launch” facility which will open this summer will remain open.

Both the pre-launch facility and introductory building are expected to teach incoming staff while also accommodating people from the region who are anxious to start gaming as soon as possible.

Catawba Nation Reveals Name and Logo of North Carolina Casino

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The Catawba Nation announced last Friday that the name of their gaming project in Kings Mountain, North Carolina will be Catawba Two Kings Casino Resort. The name and the casino’s logo were unveiled last August 28, 2020 at a private event attend by citizens of the Catawba nation, casino partners, city officials of Kings Mountain.

Said Catawba Nations chief Bill Harris:

“Catawba Two Kings Casino Resort celebrates our rich history and hopeful future in our ancestral lands in North Carolina – where our people were established hundreds of years ago, as the names Catawba River, Catawba County and Catawba College suggest. The name pays tribute to the 18th century Catawba Chief King Hagler and to the City of Kings Mountain, which will be home to the new casino resort. It also symbolizes the unique relationship that the Catawba people have historically had – and will continue to strengthen going forward – with fellow residents of the region.”

Tribute To King Hagler

King Hagler was the Catawba Chief from 1750-1763. Under his rule, the Catawba Nation forged a peaceful relationship with the American colonists in the region while also strongly defending the rights of his people. The Catawba tribe helped protect the colonists during the Revolutionary War, French War, and Indian War. In return, the Catawba got the support from them.

The logo of the proposed casino depicts King Hagler against a representation of Kings Mountain. The logo was developed in consultation with Delaware North. The New York-based hospitality and entertainment company is an adviser of the Catawba in the ongoing project.

First Phase Opening in 2021

Last March, the Catawba Nation received approval from the U.S. Department of the Interior to use 15.76 acres of land from Dixon School Road and I-85 to build the casino. The project has gotten disapproval from local groups and other counties in the state. In July, the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians filed a lawsuit to stop the construction. But a week after the case was filed, the Catawba broke ground with the goal of opening the first phase of the casino in 2021.

The proposed casino’s gaming area is expected to have more than 1,700 electronic games and 54 gaming tables. The resort will also have a 940-seat restaurant space plus a service area/player’s club in the main gaming area.