Lumbees uninterested right now in casino business
Posted September 18, 2013
Pembroke, N.C. — The South Carolina-based Catawba Indian Nation has filed an application with federal officials to buy 16 acres along Interstate 85 in Cleveland County for a planned casino that the 2,800-member tribe says would create thousands of new jobs.
But what could it mean for the Lumbee Tribe in Robeson County and the surrounding area?
"There's other things we could be looking forward to, instead of a casino, which would make the situation, I think, worse than it is right now," said Pearlean Revels, a member of the Lumbee Tribe of North Carolina Council.
Robeson County is rural. Its job growth is flat, and some say the area could benefit from a casino. But the Lumbee homeland is also soiled with high crime and drug use.
"I know it's revenue. It'll increase revenue, but you're going to bring other problems, too," said Linda Jones, a member of the Lumbee tribe. "So, why add to the problems we already have?"
Revels said that even if a casino was something the tribe wanted, it has given up the gaming option as part of a federal recognition bill.
The Lumbees have been pushing for federal recognition, and the financial benefits that come with it, for decades.
The bill in Congress precludes the Lumbees from building a casino.
Officials in economically strapped Cleveland County welcome a Catawba casino and entertainment complex, which would create more than 4,000 jobs.
But many North Carolina lawmakers, as well as Gov. Pat McCrory, oppose the idea, even though the Eastern Band of Cherokees already operates a casino in the western part of the state.
McCrory said last week he has strong concerns about it and hasn't heard an argument that justifies building a casino.
The Catawba tribe has spent much of the past 20 years trying to get some form of gambling, but has failed at almost every turn.
In 1993, it signed an agreement with South Carolina and the federal government to drop a lawsuit claiming that broken treaties dating back to the 19th century meant they should get hundreds of square miles of land.
In exchange, the tribe was given its current reservation in South Carolina, and permission to open two bingo halls as well as any additional gambling allowed by the state.
The tribe opened a bingo hall in Rock Hill, S.C., but competition from the state lottery eventually overtook it. The tribe was rejected by a handful of local governments when it tried to find a place for the second bingo parlor.