North Carolina’s casino wars heated up as two Native American tribes celebrated major gambling site expansions on the same day.
The Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians on Friday opened a $330 million expansion of the tribe’s Harrah’s Cherokee Casino Resort. The expansion includes a 19-story, 725-room hotel tower and a convention center.
And the Rock Hill-based Catawba Indians announced a planned doubling of the number of gaming machines to 1,000 at their gambling site off Interstate 85 in Kings Mountain. The casino is about 35 miles west of Charlotte.
The 24/7 facility that opened in July is the first phase of the planned $273 million Two Kings Casino Resort. Work on a larger “temporary” casino building nearby is scheduled to begin by year’s end and take about a year to finish, the Observer previously reported.
CASINO RESORT EXPANDS
Friday’s $330 million expansion at Harrah’s Cherokee Casino Resort “marks a monumental milestone” for the casino and tribe, the Cherokees’ Principal Chief Richard Sneed said at the opening.
The resort operates west of Asheville, near Maggie Valley about three hours west of Charlotte. Harrah’s Cherokee Valley River Casino is a four-hour drive from Charlotte, near Georgia and Tennessee.
Brooks Robinson, general manager of the tribe’s casinos, said the expansion further positions the Cherokee “as the leader in the entertainment industry in the Carolinas.”
The new hotel tower, called the Cherokee, is the tribe’s fourth.
Guy Fieri’s Cherokee Kitchen + Bar is opening in the tower, which also features a two-story, open-air lobby, a 30-foot onyx stone registration desk and a second-floor terrace pool with views of the Great Smoky Mountains.
The new three-level, 83,000-square-foot convention center includes a 32,000 square-foot ballroom and a 33,000-square-foot exhibition hall.
TRIBES’ LEGAL FIGHTS
The Catawbas entered the casino business in July, after a legal fight with the Cherokee, who operate the only other legal casinos in the state. The Cherokee sued to reverse a U.S. Department of the Interior ruling that the Catawbas had ancestral rights to the Kings Mountain land.
In April, a federal judge said he found no basis for the Cherokees’ claims in the lawsuit filed in March 2020. The Cherokees’ appeal of the ruling remains active in the courts.
The Cherokee, meanwhile, opened North Carolina’s first legal sports betting venues in March, at the tribe’s two casinos in the N.C. mountains. In August, the tribe legalized the cultivation and sale of medical marijuana on its Western North Carolina land.