Still More Christian Activism Needed
By L.A. Williams, Correspondent
Christian Action League
September 4, 2013
RALEIGH — A push to halt plans for a Catawba Nation casino in Cleveland County is gaining momentum, as more than 100 members of the N.C. House have signed a letter to the U.S. Interior Secretary, asking that the South Carolina tribe not be allowed to open a gambling facility in the Tar Heel state.
“We’re glad to see this effort, led by the Speaker Pro Tem and signed by the House Speaker, and we hope the U.S. Department of the Interior will take notice,” said the Rev. Mark Creech, executive director of the Christian Action League. “Obviously our state lawmakers are hearing from constituents that we don’t need another casino.”
After newspapers across the state began reporting that the tribe was eyeing land just off Interstate 85 near Kings Mountain, the CAL called on supporters to contact their legislators in opposition. Now, Dr. Creech said, it’s time to follow Rep. Paul Stam’s (R-Wake) letter by sending a similar word to Washington.
Although officials from N.C. Governor Pat McCrory’s office have visited the site, and local leaders are promoting it as a potential boon to economic development, the U.S. Department of the Interior would have to take the land into a trust before the tribe could conduct gaming there.
According to the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act (IGRA), gaming on lands acquired in trust after the law’s enactment in 1988 is prohibited except in certain circumstances. The law can be circumvented if the Secretary of the Interior believes “gaming would be in the best interest of the tribe and its members and would not be detrimental to the surrounding community, but only if the Governor of the State in which the gaming activity is to be conducted concurs with the Secretary’s determination.”
Just last month, Assistant Secretary Indian Affairs Kevin Washburn gave a thumbs-up to the Menominee Indian Tribe of Wisconsin for an off-reservation class III gaming facility in Kenosha. Wisconsin’s governor has a year to decide if he’ll OK the plan and has opened a 60-day comment period to hear from the people.
The Bush administration had tightened controls, making it more difficult for a tribe to get federal approval for a casino the farther it would be located from a reservation, but President Barack Obama’s administration repealed that policy. The Catawba Nation, with some 2,900 members, is headquartered in Rock Hill, S.C., with about 1,000 people living on tribal land in eastern York County. The northwestern tip of York borders North Carolina’s Cleveland County and Rock Hill is about 35 miles from Kings Mountain. The proposed Menominee casino that just won federal approval, is 162 miles from the tribe’s reservation.
Menominee developers in Wisconsin, already home to some 28 casinos operated by 11 tribes, claim their planned facility would create more than 3,000 jobs. The U.S. Department of the Interior also cited “strong support of local units of government” in its decision in favor of the tribe.
“Once again, it’s the job claims that tend to turn heads, especially in areas where unemployment is near double digit,” said Dr. Creech. The Catawbas have predicted some 4,000 jobs would result from their proposed 220,000-square-foot gaming facility and accompanying complex.
“Projections are pie in the sky, but state and federal officials must not forget the social costs of gambling, the jobs, homes and families of compulsive gamblers that are lost in the process, and the costs to the communities left to pick up the pieces,” Dr. Creech added.
According to the Raleigh News & Observer, although the governor would need to sign a compact with the Catawbas before Class III gaming could begin, the tribe could open a slot-like bingo operation without McCrory’s approval.
Rep. Stam’s letter, expressing “serious opposition” to any attempts by tribes outside the state to buy land for gaming, asks for notification if the tribe files an application to advance the project, and also reminds the Bureau of the state’s role in gambling activity.
“Gambling is a matter the federal government leaves within the purview of the states,” the letter asserts. “Within the State of North Carolina, we have carefully balanced the interests of our state citizens and the rights of the tribes.”
Dr. Creech urged Christians across the state that haven’t already done so to contact the Governor’s office in opposition to the casino plan and also to make a phone call or pen a letter to the U.S. Department of the Interior, as a follow-up to the missive from House members.
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.