More than 20 years in the making, the Catawba Nation opened a casino in Kings Mountain Thursday.
At noon yesterday the doors to Two Kings Casino opened and patrons began gambling. The 29,000 square foot facility is a temporary site until the Catawba Nation opens its permanent 60,000 square foot resort on the same property. The 17-acre property is located off exit 5 on Interstate-85 in Kings Mountain.
“This is taking a little bit longer than we anticipated. We promised the people of Cleveland County we were going to do this. So, how can we do it? So, we opened a 20,000 square foot facility with 500 machines therefore fulfilling our promise,” Catawba Nation Chief Bill Harris said.
Harris says they are waiting on the National Indian Gaming Commission to give approval on the casino project before work begins on the permanent site. Harris anticipates the groundbreaking ceremony for the permanent site to take place later this year.
The temporary site is equipped with 500 slot machines and will be open 24 hours per day. The capacity of the parking lot is roughly 650 spaces. A sign outside the casino said the parking lot was full Thursday afternoon. Gamblers parked on the sides of the road and waiting outside until a slot machine opened.
Many people at the opening were happy to no longer have to drive as far to get to a casino.
“I love it, that way I don’t have to drive 3 and a half, 4 hours,” Rohnie Royster, who traveled from Lancaster, S.C. said.
“It beats having to drive all the way to Harrah’s,” Yolanda Eskridge of Shelby, N.C. said.
“We love it. Fifteen minutes from my house,” Naomi Childers said.
Prior to Two Kings Casino, most people looking to gamble went to one of two casinos operated by the eastern band of Cherokee Indians in Cherokee County, N.C. The Cherokee Indians have made efforts to stop the opening of Two Kings Casino in the past. Catawba Nation Chief Bill Harris hopes the opening of Two Kings Casino will put an end to their long-standing feud.
“I think they’re [Cherokee Nation] doing what they think is in their best interest,” Chief Harris said. “But with that, Catawba is doing what they think is in their best interest.”
Chief Harris says the opening of Two Kings Casino wouldn’t have happened without the help of the local, state, and federal governments partnering with the Catawba Nation. When the permanent casino opens, the Catawba Nation estimates it will generate 2,600 jobs.
“Today is about working together. But it’s also about building a future,” Chief Harris said.
Some residents of Cleveland County are still not happy with a casino being so close to their homes. Kings Mountain Mayor Scott Neisler addressed naysayers in his remarks at the ribbon-cutting ceremony.
“Change is inevitable in this world. You can either make it positive or sit back and let it deteriorate things,” Mayor Neisler said.