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Catawba Nation To Break Ground For Kings Mountain Casino And Resort

An artist's rendering shows the proposed Catawba casino and resort at I-85 Exit 5 in Kings Mountain.
Catawba Indian Nation
An artist's rendering shows the proposed Catawba casino and resort at I-85 Exit 5 in Kings Mountain.

The Catawba Indian Nation plans to break ground Wednesday morning for a proposed casino and resort off Interstate 85 in Kings Mountain. Local officials like the idea, but the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians in western North Carolina has gone to court to stop the project. 

The Catawba Nation has been looking for a way to get into the gaming business for years. In March, the federal Department of the Interior approved a land deal that clears the way for a casino complex at Exit 5 off I-85. The tribe has been working on the plan with officials in Kings Mountain, about 30 miles west of Charlotte. Mayor Scott Neisler said it will give people a reason to stop in the city. 

"All of a sudden, we have been elevated to where this area will be the premier entertainment complex from Atlanta to Washington, D.C. ... So it's going to be a great boon for the city of Kings Mountain," Neisler said. 

Neisler said the casino also means big new revenues for the city-owned electric utility, which helps fund town operations. 

Eastern Band Doesn't Like The Idea

But the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians opposes the plan. The Eastern Band operates its own casino in Cherokee, 2½ hours to the west. In a federal lawsuit, the tribe argues that Interior officials illegally approved the deal for land that historically was theirs. 

Catawba Chief William Harris was not available for an interview Tuesday. But in a statement, he said the Eastern Band is citing a law that doesn't apply to lands the Catawbas claim in North Carolina. 

The tribe says it's working with Buffalo-based Delaware North, a big company that runs casinos, resorts and hotels, and restaurants nationwide.

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David Boraks is a veteran journalist who covers climate change for WFAE. See more at www.wfae.org/climate-news. He also has covered housing and homelessness, energy and the environment, transportation and business.