Catawbas sign lease on Rock Hill bingo hall

ROCK HILL — The Catawba Indian Nation has signed a lease with a Cherry Road shopping center owner to bring high-stakes bingo back to Rock Hill by March.

The tribe plans to open its bingo business in North East Plaza, close to Interstate 77 at the corner of Cherry and Anderson roads. New South Properties of the Carolinas, the owner of the Rock Hill shopping center, is excited about the traffic that the bingo facility will bring to the area, company partner Will Whitley said.

The recently signed lease guarantees the tribe 45,400 square feet of space in the shopping center. The bingo hall will not serve alcohol, tribe leaders have said.

Catawba bingo will become the anchor business for the shopping center as the first tenant to take over the location since Bi-Lo vacated the spot several years ago. To keep competition at bay, Bi-Lo continued to lease the location from New South Properties when the grocer opened a Super Bi-Lo nearby on Cherry Road.

That Super Bi-Lo store closed to undergo renovations when Publix bought two of the three Rock Hill Bi-Lo stores in September.

Other businesses in the popular North East Plaza shopping center include hair and nail salons, restaurants, a Verizon Wireless store and shipping and financial businesses. Bingo will attract many people, Whitley said, who could support those existing businesses.

Catawba bingo will join the most recently opened business in the shopping center – Popeyes Louisiana Kitchen, which took over the old site of Firebonz restaurant earlier this year. Popeyes demolished the Firebonz building to build its second Rock Hill restaurant. Winthrop University introduced Popeyes to campus in 2010.

Bingo hall to be tribe’s second

For the Catawbas, getting back into the bingo business is an economic development strategy, tribal leaders have said. The tribe has not yet released information about how much money it will invest in the bingo facility or how many jobs the new business will create.

The new location will be the Catawbas’ second venture in bingo.

The tribe operated a bingo venue called 500 Nations in Rock Hill from 1997 to 2006. But the tribe closed the business, saying competition from the S.C. Education Lottery stifled profits. That nearly 3,000-seat bingo hall was located at the old Rock Hill Mall on Cherry Road, which was torn down and became the site of the recently closed Super Bi-Lo.

The Catawba Indian Nation is South Carolina’s only federally recognized tribe. Under the tribe’s 1993 settlement agreement with the state, the Catawbas have a right to operate up to two bingo halls in South Carolina, including one in York County.

Tribe leaders have recently tried unsuccessfully to negotiate with other counties to open bingo halls.

The state Department of Revenue has given the Catawbas a special license to operate high-stakes bingo with prizes capped at $100,000.

The Catawbas are still fighting a court battle with the state to build a casino on the Indian Nation’s 700-acre reservation in York County. The tribe filed its suit nearly two years ago, claiming that it has the right to run a casino on reservation land. The lawsuit claims that South Carolina would receive nearly $110 million annually in gaming fees and taxes if the Catawbas were allowed to open a casino.

In preparation for opening in North East Plaza, city of Rock Hill planning documents show that the Catawbas want to install new glass at the bingo location’s storefront, replace mechanical units and electrical fans on the roof, and renovate the facility’s restrooms.

Anna Douglas • 803-329-4068

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