KINGS MOUNTAIN, N.C. (QUEEN CITY NEWS) – The Catawba Nation said this week that they want out of a deal with a gaming developer, citing a myriad of issues.
In a press release issued Wednesday evening, they said Sky Boat Gaming was demanding, as part of an exit, a $125 million one-time payment and an additional $6 million annually for access to land that houses parking at the Catawba Two Kings Casino.
The tribe called the offer “exorbitant.”
The Catawba Two Kings Casino, which currently operates out of a series of trailers at a temporary site in Kings Mountain, has been open since 2021; however, the project to build a more permanent facility has been mired by a series of regulatory issues.
In December 2022, the National Indian Gaming Commission, also known as the NIGC, issued a Notice of Violation to the Catawba Indian Nation, Kings Mountain Sky Boat Partners LLC, and Sky Boat’s owners.
The NIGC said they found multiple violations of the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act and federal regulations. Of note, according to a statement from the NIGC, “the investigation found the Nation allowed Sky Boat to manage in part the expansion of Catawba Two Kings Casino without an approved management contract.”
The Catawba Nation said they have tried to cut ties with Sky Boat through negotiations over the trust lands for casino development; however, they noted the parking lot land was acquired by Sky Boat Gaming “at the same time Sky Boat was working to secure the trust for the Catawba, an acquisition that Catawba Chief Harris characterized as trying to advantage of Sky Boat at the expense of the Catawba.”
The tribe accused Sky Boat Gaming in the statement of holding the casino project “hostage.”
The tribe notes that the Catawba’s gaming operations are fully in compliance with a NIGC-approved company and the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act.
The Catawba Nation has had plans for a $700 million permanent casino resort facility to go at the site off Interstate 85 and Dixon School Road in Kings Mountain since groundbreaking for the project first started.
Catwaba Chief Brian Harris said the effort to gain the land “would satisfy NIGC casino ownership requirements.”
In an interview with Queen City News Thursday morning, Chief Brian Harris, who was recently elected chief, said the casino opened in violation of regulations.
“We opened in violation of NIGC. Sky Boat knew it, our previous administration knew it, and they bided their time out until we got the notice of violation,” said Chief Harris.
Harris noted the tribe does not want any further dealings with Sky Boat and said, “We don’t disagree that they are owed something. However, they have not produced the information or documents we need to justify that.”
As for the future of the casino project, Chief Harris said they do plan to move forward, but without partners.
“We are patient and want to get it right,” he said. “We want to make sure we are being done right and (that) we get a fair deal.” Queen City News has reached out to Sky Boat Gaming for comment and is awaiting a response.