The Buncombe County board of commissioners is now the largest local government body to support the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians in its legal fight with the Catawba Indian Nation over a proposed casino in the Charlotte suburbs.
Buncombe commissioners by a 6-1 vote Tuesday evening approved a resolution opposing the construction of a casino in Kings Mountain. Eastern Band Principal Chief Richard Sneed addressed commissioners before the vote, restating their argument that the Catawba received illegal approval from the federal Interior Department for its casino. "We have played by the rules for 22 years," Sneed told commissioners. "We have been a solid partner with the state of North Carolina and the surrounding counties. Which is why I believe, that entire Western North Carolina delegation (to the General Assembly) has opposed this action and supported the Eastern Band, and all the county commissions west of (Buncombe) have supported it."
The Eastern Band owns the only two casinos in North Carolina in Cherokee (opened in 1997) and Murphy (opened in 2015). Both are located on the Qualla Boundary, the Eastern Band's ancestral home in Western North Carolina. The Catawba broke ground earlier this year for its casino on land it says it has ancestral rights to in North Carolina, a facility that could take away some business from the Eastern Band's two casinos. The Catawba is based in South Carolina, and have contended the law the Eastern Band cites in its legal argument (the 1988 Indian Gaming Regulatory Act) does not apply to the lands the Catawba claim in North Carolina.