The new chief of the Catawba Nation rejects the cost of a financial deal that would see most of the tribe’s ties with a company that has been crucial to the launch of its Two Kings Casino broken.
As Chief Brian Harris noted, the deal was approved by the previous administration of the Native American tribe. Under its terms, the Catawba Nation would have to pay a total of $125 million to SkyBoat LLC. The competent Gaming Commission gave the nod to the agreement in September 2023.
Under the agreement, the Catawba Nation would be able to resolve the opposition of the National Indian Gaming Commission to its agreements with SkyBoat and the planned profits from the casino project when it is eventually built. The due payment, however, is simply too large, according to Chief Harris, who was elected to the position a few months ago and now has to sign the agreement for it to be finalized.
Mr. Harris shared that the tribe’s ability to expand its operations was actually quite limited under the settlement in question, which would be detrimental to its business and its people’s welfare.
In its turn, in a statement to the Observer, a legal representative of SkyBoat LLC shared that the settlement amount was based on data, reports and arguments of the Tribe that had agreed that the resolution was reasonable. Apart from that, the company waited for 10 months while the deal was picked apart by the National Indian Gaming Commission (NIGC) and ultimately came to the conclusion that the agreement was fair and commercially reasonable and none of the agreed terms violated any of the metrics and guidelines protecting the Tribe.
NIGC Finds Catawba Nation’s Agreement with SkyBoat in Violation of Federal Law
As mentioned above, under the provisions of the settlement, the tribe is expected to pay SkyBoat a total of $125 million in return for its assistance for the Catawba Nation to acquire 17 acres and have it put into a land trust for the casino project.
The tribe’s new Chief has refused to say how much money SkyBoat deserves in his opinion. He, however, noted that SkyBoat provided no receipts or other type of documentation to prove where such a payment came from.
Last year, the National Indian Gaming Commission came to the conclusion that the development contract inked between the Catawba Nation and SkyBoat was in breach of federal law. According to the regulator, SkyBoat was given too much ownership and authority over the project, which was supposed to be developed to benefit the members of the Native American tribe. Apart from that, the Commission also found that the two parties filed to submit a management contract within 60 days of its execution, as the law had required them to.
The Catawba Nation was granted federal authorities’ approval to build a casino on its historic lands in North Carolina in 2020. As a result, about 17 acres in Kings Mountain in Cleveland County were put into trust for the benefit of the tribe by the then-Secretary of the Interior, David Bernhardt.
The Native American tribe opened a temporary casino offering a sportsbook service and 1,000 gaming machines in the summer of 2021. However, the construction of its permanent $800-million Two Kings Casino has been put on hold ever since the NIGC unveiled the alleged violations in December 2022. Once established, the permanent casino is set to house 120 table games and 3,000 slot machines, and there will be a 400-room hotel tower adjacent to it too.