Opinion: Native American casino would boost the statewide economy and job market

Corey Color WEB

Cory Spiers

The Catawba Indian Nation is ready to raise the stakes in their attempt to get a casino built in North Carolina.

The tribe had previously been working to get a form of Native American gambling in South Carolina for more than 20 years, but have yet been unsuccessful, according to the Charlotte Observer.

North Carolina officials should open their eyes and minds and set a positive precedent by allowing an out-of-state tribe the chance to achieve something they have been avidly pursuing.

It is time that the Catawba people get what they are pushing for.

Catawba Nation’s fight against South Carolina officials has yielded no serious progress since 1993, so the decision to attempt to put a casino in the next state north makes sense for the York, S.C.-based tribe.

After all, the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians currently operate the successful Harrah’s Hotel and Casino in western North Carolina.

Indeed, the Cherokees are actually based in North Carolina, but their success parlayed with the freedom of expansion that the Native Americans enjoy as a result should prove to North Carolina lawmakers that allowing the casino will not only help the state economy, but also give the Catawba people something they have been pushing for over an extensive period of time.

Proponents of the idea cite job creation and the generation of revenue as potential positive outcomes of a casino.

In 2012, the Native American gaming industry generated $27.9 billion, according to the National Indian Gaming Commission.

The aforementioned Harrah’s Cherokee Hotel and Casino currently employs 2,300 people and pumps approximately $390 million a year into the local economy, according to a 2011 study from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Greg Richardson, executive director of the North Carolina Commission of Indian Affairs, told the Associated Press that a tribe has four hurdles to clear in order to operate a casino: becoming federally recognized, having a land trust with the Bureau of Indian Affairs in the state of operation, having a compact with the state to go into the casino gaming industry and gaining the consent of the state General Assembly.

Unfortunately, it looks as if the Catawba people are behind the eight ball because they are not based within the state as the Cherokees are.

North Carolina officials should open up their minds and look into the positive potential of the idea.
Local officials met with an adviser to Gov. Pat McCrory in July, but the McCrory administration has since played down the idea, according to the Associated Press.

Catawba Chief Bill Harris has not made any comments on the matter, but ultimately, who can blame him? What more can be said?

It seems as if the Catawba Nation is fighting a battle they are destined to lose.

Perhaps an open mind would show that a victory for the Catawba people is a victory for all involved.

Spiers, a junior journalism major from Charlotte, is the opinion editor.