Artist's rendering of proposed Catawba Nation casino in North Carolina. Image: Catawba Nation Project Brief

Catawba Nation remains in limbo years after submitting casino application

It's been four years since the Catawba Nation submitted a casino application to the Bureau of Indian Affairs and it's anyone's guess when a decision will be made.

The tribe is seeking to open a casino a 36-acre site in North Carolina under provisions of its land claim settlement. The Catawba Indian Tribe of South Carolina Land Claims Settlement Act requires the BIA to place the land in trust, so long as certain conditions in the 1993 law are met, such as the land falling within the tribe's service area.

Despite the mandatory nature of the acquisition, the BIA is still reviewing the tribe's request to make sure it complies with the law. "Land into trust applications undergo a careful analysis of the statutory requirements for taking land into trust," a spokesperson for the agency told The Gaston Gazette.

Generally, land acquired after 1988 can't be used for a casino. But Section 20 of the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act contains an exception that applies for tribes with land claim settlements.

The exception, however, has only been utilized twice since 1988. The Wyandotte Nation and the Tohono O'odham Nation opened casinos on lands acquired in connection with their settlements but only after lengthy legal and political battles.

The Sault Ste. Marie Tribe of Chippewa Indians cited its land claim settlement in applications for two casinos in Michigan. The Trump administration rejected the proposals in July, claiming the acquisitions did not comply with the law, especially since the sites are so far from tribal headquarters.

The Catawba Nation is based in Rock Hill, South Carolina. The gaming site in North Carolina is located off a major interstate near King's Mountain, about 47 miles away from tribal headquarters. It's about 34 miles from Charlotte, the largest city in the state.

Despite the distance, the land falls within the tribe's Congressionally-defined service area, which includes parts of North Carolina and South Carolina.

Read More on the Story:
Feds still holding the cards in casino decision (The Gaston Gazette September 2, 2017)

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