Concerted response from clergy in Cleveland County and surrounding area needed soon, says Executive Director
By L.A. Williams, Correspondent
Christian Action League
September 12, 2013
KINGS MOUNTAIN — Even as the majority of state House members and the governor’s office are frowning on the idea of a proposed $600 million casino complex in Cleveland County, the Catawba Indians are pushing for quick action from the U.S. Bureau of Indian Affairs to take into trust the land they are eyeing — some 16 acres off Dixon School Road near I-85.
The tribe, which has a 1,000-acre reservation in South Carolina but has failed to convince that state to allow a casino, has six North Carolina counties in its federal service area, including Cleveland, and is betting on those Tar Heel connections to win federal favor even after more than 100 N.C. representatives signed a missive to the BIA in strong opposition.
“The letter the House members signed focused on not allowing a tribe to come in from outside the state. The Catawbas have lived in North Carolina for some 6,000 years and still live there,” their attorney Gregory Smith, told the media. He said tribal leadership is “looking forward to educating those House members and hopefully winning them over.”
While it’s true the North Carolina General Assembly nor the governor has a say in the federal decision to take land into trust for the tribe, the Catawbas would have to negotiate a compact with the governor and get legislative approval before gambling could begin. A spokesman from Gov. Pat McCrory’s office said last week that the Governor “remains unconvinced that any new casino proposal is in the best interest of North Carolina.”
And the Mayor of Lattimore, some 19 miles west of Kings Mountain, said this week that Cleveland County leaders, who have gushed over the prospect of a projected 3,000 to 5,000 casino-generated jobs, should slow down and take a look at the whole picture, beyond the promises of a 220,000-square-foot casino and 1,500 hotel rooms.
“There’s a lot of things that have been said about the economic impact, but people aren’t willing to talk much about the social and religious impacts,” Alton Beal told the Shelby Star. “There are certainly negative impacts the casino will have on the county.”
“Gambling is very addictive. There are people in this county that will become addicted to gambling because it’s much more accessible. They may have never made a trip to Harrah’s, but if this one’s here, they will,” he added.
The Rev. Mark Creech, executive director of the Christian Action League, said Beal’s concerns are certainly warranted and that opponents of the casino, especially the clergy and other citizen Christians should waste no time in contacting the Bureau of Indian Affairs to express their opinions.
Also, leaders of the Cherokee Nation, which operates Harrah’s Casino, said Monday that they’re concerned about the impact another casino could have on their resort. Ironically, it’s the gambling already going on at Cherokee, and expanding in scope, that may help pave the way for the Catawba project.
“The state of North Carolina has embraced a variety of forms of gaming, including a form of Indian gaming that is virtually identical to what the Catawba Indian Nation has proposed,” Smith told the Charlotte Business Journal.
“The Catawbas do not seek to engage in a form of gaming that North Carolina has not already endorsed in one fashion or another, so, as a matter of equity, the Catawbas should be extended the same opportunity within its federal service area especially where, as here, their proposal has been embraced so positively by the local community.”
Dr. Creech said equity arguments are secondary to the state’s higher responsibility of protecting its citizens against crime and other social ills that accompany gambling and gambling addiction.
“Just because the state opened the door to the Cherokees doesn’t mean we have to put out the red carpet for every Indian tribe that buys land in the state or has some history with it. That’s absurd,” he said.
Dr. Creech further urged that there should be a concerted response from clergy in Cleveland County and the surrounding areas in opposition to the proposed casino sooner than later. He said the Federal Bureau of Indian Affairs should be contacted to ask them not to take North Carolina land into trust for the Catawba Nation. Time is of the essence, he added.
Take Christian Action:
Letters should be addressed to Kevin Washburn, Assistant Secretary Indian Affairs, at MS-4141-MIB, 1849 C Street, N.W., Washington, D.C. 20240.
The phone number is (202) 208-7163.
Also, if you have yet to contact the Governor’s office to express your opposition, please call (919) 814-2000.