US Senate bill pushes for Kings Mountain casino

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A bill was introduced in the U.S. Senate Wednesday that would put land off I-85 into a trust for the Catawba Indian Tribe for the construction of a long talked about casino in Kings Mountain.

South Carolina Senator Lindsey Graham introduced the bill, with North Carolina Senators Thom Tillis and Richard Burr signing on as co-sponsors.

A casino owned by the Catawba Indian Tribe in Kings Mountain has been talked about for several years.

The Catawba Indian Tribe submitted an application in September 2014 to the U.S. Department of the Interior for land trust and casino rights for a plot off I-85 near Kings Mountain. Focusing on 16-acres off exit 5, the application has been pending with the Federal Bureau of Indian Affairs for years.

The application called for a 1.8 million-square-foot facility, which would include a casino and a hotel. The complex could employ around 5,000 people, according to initial reports.

Graham’s bill could bypass the department and have the tribe’s trust approved by an act of Congress.

Kings Mountain Mayor Scott Neisler said he supports the move to push the proposed the casino forward from either avenue due to its potential economic impact on the area.

“It is really going to be a great economic driver for our county,” Neisler said. “It is documented that we have below average income levels in our area. This will produce good paying jobs for our citizens.”

Neisler also noted that the city could provide utilities to the casino, which he said would help the keep taxes low for residents of Kings Mountain.

The Cleveland County Board of Commissioners issued a statement following the introduction of the bill, saying they support economic development projects that will create new jobs but also noting that this stage of the process only involves the U.S. Senate and the Catawba Indian Nation.

“Should this project move forward, the Cleveland County Board of Commissioners welcomes the opportunity to build relationships with the Catawba Indian Nation,” the statement from the commissioners read. “We will work diligently with tribal leaders to ensure that the residents of Cleveland County will have access to new jobs that will be created; that the county will benefit from the economic growth that a project of this magnitude will generate; and that any decisions to be made are in the best interest of the people we serve.”

The new bill drew ire from the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians, who released a statement following the introduction of the bill.

The Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians’ statement encourages the historically South Carolinian Catawba Indian Tribe “to develop their on-reservation economy as it should be - in their community.”

“While the tribe respects and encourages progress for other Native American communities, including South Carolina’s Catawba Indian Nation, the recent filing of a bill in the U.S. Senate to give North Carolina land to the South Carolina tribe for an off-reservation casino is nothing more than a modern day land grab by the federal government of Cherokee aboriginal lands,” the statement said.

Catawba Indian Nation Chief Bill Harris told WBTV that he has documentation showing that the proposed location is Catawba aboriginal land.

Neisler said he stands with the statement issued by Harris about their native land.

“I’m convinced the Catawba were part of our area even though we’re in North Carolina and that they deserve the same chances the Cherokees in preserving their culture,” Neisler said.

https://www.shelbystar.com/news/20190315/us-senate-bill-pushes-for-kings-mountain-casino

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