The Catawba Indian Nation has closed its bingo operation on Cherry Road in Rock Hill.
In a news release Tuesday night, tribe officials said closing Catawba Bingo was the result of “historical sluggish summer sales” and regional gaming competition.
Catawba Indian Nation Chief Bill Harris said the decision came after nearly six months of discussions with the tribe’s economic development department and other leaders.
“It was a sad moment to have to close, but it was strictly a business move,” Harris said.
The chief said while the bingo operation had a loyal base of customers, they weren’t seeing the increase in players needed to make the business profitable.
“We kept waiting for the numbers to change...but the numbers never did give us what we were looking for,” Harris said. “The Nation did our best to keep the hall open.”
The York County-based tribe is assessing “its two licenses to explore other options in smaller facilities in South Carolina,” according to the news release.
“We will continue to look for different avenues for economic development,” Harris said.
If South Carolina paves the way for casinos, Harris said that may be an option for the tribe. S.C. House Minority Leader Todd Rutherford, D-Richland, has proposed a bill to allow casinos in the Palmetto State.
“If they do take the path of having resorts in South Carolina, then that opens the door for Catawba to have a resort on this reservation,” Harris said.
Catawba Bingo, at 2375 Cherry Road, opened in 2014, served more than 150,000 customers, generated more than $15 million in sales and netted $1.5 million to the state, the tribe said in the news release.
The tribe is required by law to pay 10 percent of the face value of bingo paper to the state and set aside at least 50 percent of its gross sales for prizes, according to the S.C. Department of Revenue. The remaining money goes to operations and pay.
Before expenses, the tribe had $2.5 million in gross revenue from bingo operations in 2014, $5.4 million in 2015 and had $4 million as of Dec. 29, 2016, according to the S.C. Department of Revenue.
After expenses, the tribe reported a loss of more than $200,000 from its bingo operations in 2014 and a loss of more than $700,000 in 2015, according to the S.C. Secretary of State Public Charities Division.
The tribe said “high gross sales tax rates” and competition from S.C. Education Lottery scratch cards and the N.C. lottery were factors in closing the bingo hall.
This was the tribe’s second bingo operation in Rock Hill. An earlier bingo hall opened in 1997 and closed in 2006 at the site of the former Rock Hill Mall on Cherry Road.
The tribe’s second bingo operation opened eight years later in a renovated space once home to a Bi-Lo grocery store.
The tribe continues to hold discussions with the Rock Hill school district, to which it owes a decades-long $4.5 million debt, said Elizabeth Harris, tribal administrator.
“We are trying to reach common ground and try to take care of this situation,” she said.
The Catawba Indian Nation’s reservation sits on about 700 acres east of Rock Hill.