Why shouldn't this be legal? "It will bring bad." Uh... Alcohol and cigarettes are legal. They KILL people. Gambling doesn't directly kill anyone. "It is gambling, which can be addictive and ruin lives." Again, cigarettes and alcohol are legal... Let's examine this... White man took the Indian's land and life, yet, they aren't allowed to set up a viable source of income when we already have a lottery system in place? So, purchasing tickets to a lottery (AKA, GAMBLING!) system is okay? But a casino isn't? I mean, I could understand if the bigot and hypocrite Strom Thurmond was still around... but, come on... it's 2012, people... time to embrace society's growth. Move on. Get over it. Let them build a casino and try to reclaim a tiny fragment (albeit monetarily) of their ancestry that was destroyed by our forefathers. Look at the jobs and commerce it will bring to the area. An economic boost -- something all cities of the modern world could use these days. -OIRH
A judge has ruled against the Catawba Indian Nation in its attempt to build a casino on its York County reservation, but the tribe vowed to appeal – with the chief calling the setback part of its “quest for justice.”
In January, the state’s sole federally recognized tribe sued the state and its top law enforcement official over the tribe’s gaming rights after casino boats were allowed to operate off the coast of Charleston.
In that suit, the tribe alleged changes to state law that allow the boats to make a planned casino on the Catawbas’ reservation legal.
On Tuesday, Circuit Court Judge Ernest Kinard of Camden disagreed.
The Catawbas claim that the Charleston-area “cruises to nowhere” are legal and that the tribe under its 1993 settlement with the state is allowed to have anything any other person or group has available in the state and is “not required to have an ocean” on its reservation.
But Kinard ruled that a 2007 S.C. Supreme Court ruling in another Catawbas suit against the state made it clear “state law presently bans the possession and operation of video poker devices.”
The S.C. Supreme Court ruled against the tribe after a 2005 lawsuit in which the tribe claimed the state lottery hurt its Rock Hill bingo business and its right to operate machines allowed elsewhere in the state guaranteed by the 1993 settlement.
The tribe’s lawsuit included plans to build a casino and two hotels, with construction starting next year and finishing in 2014.
The complex would employ almost 4,000 people during construction and operation, according to an economic impact study the tribe commissioned, and would bring in more than $100,000 in taxes and fees to the state.
The state Attorney General’s office, representing the state, is “pleased with the decision of the court,” spokesman Mark Plowden said.
Catawbas Chief Bill Harris described the ruling as a disappointment because the casino would bring thousands of jobs and millions in tax revenues to the state. But the ruling “is merely a step in our long struggle,” he said. “We plan to appeal this ruling.”
State Sen. Wes Hayes, R-Rock Hill, an opponent of the tribe’s attempt to build a York County casino, believes the case eventually will reach the state Supreme Court.
“Certainly, I believe the judge is right in this ruling,” Hayes said. “But that is not just based on the merits of the case, but because I helped negotiate the (1993) settlement between the state and the Catawbas.”
That settlement, which included the federal government, guaranteed the tribe two bingo halls – one in York County – and the ability to have any gaming legally available elsewhere in the state.
But the state banned video poker in 2000.
Harris vowed Tuesday to make sure the 1993 settlement is honored, despite the change in state law.
“In 1993, the Catawbas trusted the political leaders of South Carolina,” Harris said. “Since then, we have traveled a long and difficult path. South Carolina is our ancestral home, and we will continue to ask the authorities of today to keep the promises that were made to us two decades ago.
“Our faith remains strong that one day soon justice will prevail.”
He declined further comment.
Debra Gammons, a former judge and law professor at the Charleston School of Law, said the tribe likely would first ask Kinard to reconsider the ruling before forging ahead with a formal, costly appeal to a higher court.
In a hearing earlier this month in Columbia, lawyers for the state attorney general’s office argued the casino boats outside Charleston can’t start gambling until they reach international waters.
State law is specific in denying even those boats the right to gamble in South Carolina, the lawyers argued.
But the Catawbas maintain that the casino boat law “triggers” allowing the tribe to have the same ability to operate.
In his ruling, Kinard said there is no such “trigger” and federal law also shows the “bright line distinction between authorization of gaming outside the state and gambling prohibitions within.”
“The Tribe’s (argument) that ‘any authorization’ regardless of whether outside the state, gives it a similar right on the reservation is, in this Court’s opinion, untenable,” Kinard wrote.
Still, Gammons said, the Catawbas’ argument that the change in state law allowing casino boats seems enough of a legal issue that an appeal would likely be heard not just by the state Supreme Court, but potentially in federal courts.
“It certainly seems, in a case such as this with so much at stake, that it is to the Indian Nation’s advantage to appeal,” Gammons said.
The tribe had asked for a temporary injunction to prevent law enforcement officers from seizing gaming machines or stopping gaming activities on the reservation. Shortly thereafter, tribal leaders announced they would postpone any plans to start gaming on the reservation until after a final ruling on the case.
Gambling has been an issue with the tribe since the 1993 settlement ended a more than decade-long legal fight with the state and federal governments over a Catawbas land claim that the government illegally took 144,000 acres of their land in 1840.