By L.A. Williams
Christian Action League
January 28, 2021
Gov. Roy Cooper on Friday signed a compact with the Catawba Indian Nation that will allow the South Carolina-based tribe to conduct Las Vegas-style gambling, sports betting and more at its planned $273 million, 17-acre casino project in Kings Mountain as soon as this fall.
The compact, which must go to the U.S. Department of Interior (DOI) for final review, represents a reversal of Cooper’s opinion on the matter in 2013, when he was the state’s attorney general.
“I think it’s a bad idea for our state,” Cooper told The News & Observer at the time. “We are busily trying to shut down video poker parlors all across the state and I don’t think we need another operation like that to stimulate the economy. There are other industries we should recruit.”
Nonetheless, late last week he signed the agreement which, according to a Catawba press release, also has the blessing of Secretary of State Elaine Marshall and Attorney General Josh Stein.
The compact, by which the state will receive $191,000 for overseeing sports and horse betting and garner a percentage of revenue from live table gaming, was not well received by gambling opponents nor the Cherokee Tribe, which has sued to stop the development of Two Kings Casino Resort.
“At its most fundamental level, this gambling casino proposal is entirely illegitimate. We are shocked and completely dismayed that Governor Cooper would enter into a gambling compact on behalf of the State of North Carolina in such contentious circumstances, especially when substantive litigation is ongoing,” wrote John L. Rustin, president of the NC Family Council. He urged Cooper to rescind the compact and wait until legal disputes surrounding the project are resolved.
The Christian Action League has actively opposed the casino from the outset, when the tribe, frustrated with South Carolina’s resistance to Class III gambling, reached out to the Federal Bureau of Indian Affairs in 2013 seeking a land trust off Interstate 85 in North Carolina. When the BIA didn’t take action, S.C. Sen. Lindsey Graham introduced a bill to bypass the bureau, and the casino got federal approval in March from the DOI.
“We lobbied against it at the legislative level, and we had boots on the ground in Cleveland County,” said the Rev. Mark Creech, executive director of the Christian Action League. He called on CAL supporters to keep praying on the matter.
“Let me tell you a quick story: Not long after I became a believer in Christ as a teenager, I was riding in a car through a town with my parents. From the backseat I spied a sexually-oriented business out the car window. We were just driving by, but I remember how I felt moved to pray against that business. And so, quietly, I begin an earnest but silent prayer asking God to shut it down. I forgot all about praying that prayer until we drove through that same town again several weeks later. Lo and behold, the building was empty. In my heart, I knew God had answered prayer.”
Creech said there is nothing more powerful that Christians can do to advocate for a righteous culture than to pray earnestly.
“This is not to say that we needn’t do more, whenever we can, but there is definitely nothing more powerful to do than to pray. And sometimes, there is nothing left to do but pray,” Creech said. “So I ask you to join with me in asking God to shut down this effort to bring another ‘temple of chance,’ to North Carolina.”
Creech called casinos places where “people take all they have and cast it upon the altar of the god of luck – an act which has enormous social, cultural, economic and political consequences for every one of us.”
“Yes, O Lord, shut it down!” he said.
While they may or may not be calling for the Lord to intervene, leaders of the Eastern Band of Cherokees are pushing for a federal judge to rule against the casino. They say the DOI should never have agreed to set aside land in Kings Mountain for the Catawbas.
“The proposed Kings Mountain casino was born of an illegal act and has continued to swirl in controversy and unethical behavior. It’s disappointing to hear that the Governor felt compelled to sign an agreement that furthers this scheme and threatens the integrity of tribal gaming everywhere,” Richard Sneed, principal chief of the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians, told the Asheville Citizen-Times. “But this compact changes nothing. We continue to believe the courts will affirm the illegality of this casino, and when that happens, the Catawba agreement will be nothing more than a worthless piece of paper.”
The Cherokees, which already operate two casinos in western North Carolina, say the Catawbas’ casino site is actually located on ancestral Cherokee land. Their lawsuit, filed by the tribe and 12 members who live near the Kings Mountain location, also points to the fact that the Catawba Nation operates under the authority of an agreement established in 1993 between the Catawbas, the U.S. Congress and the state of South Carolina, the only state, they contend, where the tribe is authorized to purchase land and conduct gambling.
Expedited by Washington, D.C., federal District Judge James Boasberg last month said the suit could be heard as early as February.
Meanwhile, the Catawbas say they’re continuing with construction of the project’s first phase, which will include a 60,000-square-foot facility to house some 1,300 slot machines, a restaurant and other amenities.