While it might sound callous, if the Catawba Indian Nation opens a casino in North Carolina, that would help solve a problem for South Carolina.
The tribe has made several attempts to get around South Carolina’s ban in 2000 on video poker. In one case, the Catawbas wanted to open a bingo parlor that featured electronic bingo games that allowed customers to play multiple games in a short time.
But several state lawmakers said that seemed too close to video poker and vowed to oppose it.
In another attempt to skirt the ban, tribal officials sought to establish a gambling operation on cruise ships off the state’s coast, arguing that the ships would be beyond the legal jurisdiction of the state. That proposal is tied up in legal proceedings with a possible hearing before the state Supreme Court, but no court date has been set.
Recently, however, the tribe has consulted with North Carolina lawmakers about a potential casino along Interstate 85 in Cleveland County near Kings Mountain, N.C. Gambling is permitted in North Carolina, where the Cherokee nation recently had its gambling agreement with the state renewed.
Catawba officials are not providing many details about plans for a North Carolina casino, but say “any large-scale development project would be a great benefit to the tribe and tribal members.” Elizabeth Harris, who heads economic development for the Catawbas, said such a project would help alleviate high unemployment among tribal members.
We welcome efforts to open up new economic opportunities for the tribe. We hope a plan to reopen a bingo operation on Cherry Road later this year will give the tribe a needed boost.
But, like many S.C. lawmakers, including state Sen. Wes Hayes, R-Rock Hill, we continue to staunchly oppose anything that even faintly resembles a return of video gambling to South Carolina. The state managed to rid itself of the scourge of video poker, and it should not permit it to sneak in through the back door.
But if the tribe can arrange to build a casino in North Carolina, we wouldn’t object. South Carolina lawmakers have no jurisdiction outside of the state and, frankly, it would largely be North Carolina’s problem.
York County Sheriff Bruce Bryant put it even more bluntly: “If they are hell bent on building a casino and that’s what they’re gonna do, would I rather see it in York County or Cleveland County? I’d rather see it in an adjoining county. When you build something like that, you invite that trouble.”
Bryant added that a casino in North Carolina would strain local enforcement far less than one in York County. While a casino just across the state line would pose some problems for local law enforcement, primary enforcement would be on the shoulders of North Carolina agencies.
There is no guarantee that the casino deal will go through. It would require a separate gambling compact, which would require approval by N.C. state lawmakers, some of whom are reticent to approve the plan.
Again, though, that will be up to North Carolina authorities. And, if they approve the deal, it will be their headache, not South Carolina’s.