Catawba Casino Project
The Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians, based in Cherokee, NC formally opposes the Department of Interior’s decision to approve the Catawba Indian Nation, a tribe based in South Carolina, to have lands taken into trust in Cherokee aboriginal territory in North Carolina for the sole purpose of building an off-reservation casino. This flawed decision is a plain example of “reservation shopping”, the practice of casino developers pairing a willing Indian tribe with a city or county open to a casino and seeking to have the federal government create a new reservation outside the willing tribe’s aboriginal territory. Both Congress and Indian Country have repeatedly denounced the practice of reservation shopping and have repeatedly engaged the Department of the Interior to press for changes in the Department’s rules to limit these kinds of deals.
This decision undermines the interests of tribal governments and the tribal gaming industry generally. A primary purpose of the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act (IGRA) is to “provide a statutory basis for the regulation of gaming by an Indian tribe adequate to shield it from organized crime and other corrupting influences, to ensure that the Indian tribe is the primary beneficiary of the gaming operation, and to assure that gaming is conducted fairly and honestly by both the operator and players.” 25 U.S.C. § 2702(2). The Department of Interior, in partnership with the National Indian Gaming Association, should be working to keep bad actors out of the tribal gaming industry, not sanctioning casino deals with them.
The Catawba Settlement Agreement gives the tribe a federally supported legal avenue to acquire land into trust for gaming purposes in South Carolina, which the EBCI would fully support for the benefit of the Catawba Indian Nation.