Catawba Indians plan to offer gambling, ready to go to court

Catawba Indians plan to offer gambling, ready to go to court

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by TONY BURBECK / NewsChannel 36 Staff

Bio | Email | Follow: @TonyWCNC

WCNC.com

Posted on February 14, 2012 at 7:26 PM

Updated Tuesday, Feb 14 at 7:41 PM

ROCK HILL, S.C. -- The Catawba Indian Nation plans to open a temporary gaming facility on their land in York County, but first they’re seeking a judge’s order saying law enforcement officers can't seize gambling machines or arrest employees operating them.

It is part of a lawsuit against the state to allow the tribe to operate a casino and reaches back to the tribe’s settlement agreement with the state almost 20 years ago.

Tribe members say that agreement entitles them to have what the state authorizes.  Since the state authorized off shore gambling in 2005, the tribe says it is entitled to offer gambling as well.

"The tribe can have on its reservation whatever the state authorizes, and at this point the state has authorized gaming, so this will be on reservation land,” said Catawba Indian Chief Bill Harris.

If the tribe wins in court on February 23, expect a temporary gaming center to be set up quickly while the tribe works toward building a permanent casino, officials said.

A study shows the initial impact of the casino on the economy would be more than $500 million, plus create nearly 4,000 new jobs during construction and operation.

Terresa Blackwood lives next to the reservation. She wouldn’t mind a casino close to home.

“Yeah, if it gives everybody jobs then they need to do it,” Blackwood said.

Most neighbors NewsChannel 36 talked to said they're not too worried about things like crime or the traffic a casino might bring.

“If it will create 4,000, I think it’s great,” said neighbor Jesse Funderburk. 

Funderburk says he would spend his money at the Catawba Indian casino rather than drive hours to another casino like he does three times a month.

Blackwood says she would be a customer, but that’s not necessarily a good thing.  Blackwood says she was addicted to video poker.

"I'd be worried about me going down there like that because I like to gamble, I do.  A lot of people will do that,” Blackwood said.

State Senator Wes Hayes from Rock Hill told the Charlotte Observer that he opposes the casino because it's a major departure from the tribe's settlement agreement.
 

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