Opponents of proposed North Carolina casino mount campaign

As the federal government continues to review the Catawba tribe’s plan to build a casino near Kings Mountain, opponents are busy countering positive claims for the project.

A grassroots effort called the Kings Mountain Community Awareness Group held its first community meeting in February and is sponsoring another on April 24, featuring John Rustin, president of the N.C. Family Policy and a leading critic of the casino.

The group has sponsored an informational event for business owners.

In September, the Catawba Indian Nation unveiled plans for a casino that could bring 4,000 jobs to a site off Interstate 85 about 30 miles northwest of their reservation in Rock Hill.

The project has faced a backlash from a bipartisan group of elected officials who say they don’t want the casino in North Carolina. The $339 million project is in a holding pattern as the tribe waits for the U.S. Bureau of Indian Affairs to decide whether to place the casino property in trust.

Meanwhile, foes of the project warn of negative impacts such as increased crime and gambling. And they say hopes of an economic boom are hollow.

“We don’t see anywhere near the economic boom that was being loudly promoted,” said Forcade, 50, a field manager for a construction company. “This will have a gigantic impact on the community, but it gives a false economic hope.”

According to Forcade, the group’s immediate goals include convincing the Kings Mountain City Council and Cleveland County Board of Commissioners to rescind their letters of support that were sent to the project’s developers.

Another goal of the Kings Mountain Awareness Group is to focus on getting support from lawmakers in Raleigh, said Forcade.

Kings Mountain Mayor Rick Murphrey supports the casino. He said people are entitled to their own opinions about the casino project, but in a county with high unemployment “we look at it from the standpoint of jobs and revenue.”

The mayor also said the project would create 4,000 to 5,000 jobs and “we can’t turn that down.”

Cleveland County Commissioner Johnny Hutchins of Kings Mountain said the casino is a much-discussed topic in the county.

“It’s got an upside and a downside and you’ve got to weigh each one,” he said. “But I’ve talked to people and the majority in the county are for it.”