ROCK HILL, S.C. - Saying Catawba bingo is being operated under an illegal
contract, a group of Catawba tribal members gathered in front of the bingo
hall on Cherry Road with signs and written information to protest the
The protestors maintained that Catawba Bingo has made millions of dollars
during its existence, but to this day, the bingo hall has not shown any
profits which could be beneficial to the tribe.
"The Catawba Bingo was given to us in our settlement package in 1993 to
create revenues for our people and to bring jobs for the tribal members,"
said Deborah Harris Crisco, a protesting tribal member. "And to this day
that has never happened."
On a warm afternoon, the peaceful protestors kept themselves at a safe
distance from the bingo entrance where a number of players, including
several busloads of people, were going in to play. One member handed out
leaflets to some of the players near the entrance. Rock Hill city police
officers cruised by every so often without stopping.
Neither the bingo management group nor Catawba tribal officials were on
hand to comment on the protest.
Crisco said the tribal leaders signed a contract with New River Management
and Development Company of Rock Hill to operate the bingo hall. She said
the contract was not brought before the tribal membership for a vote of
approval. The result was an agreement only between tribal leadership and
New River, she said.
"What we need to see is the books and the contract that New River signed
with the tribe," Crisco said. "Because the tribe and the Secretary of
Interior, according to the settlement act, were supposed to approve the
management company to operate any business, and to this date, that has
Crisco explained that Catawba leadership entered into contract with
Southern Property Management, Inc. (SPM) of Columbia, S.C. in 1997 when
Catawba Bingo was opened. In the contract, SPM received 49 percent of the
bingo revenues and the Catawba tribe, 51 percent, she said.
Recently, New River, a new company, "branched off" from SPM and now is
managing Catawba Bingo, Crisco explained. "They are the same people," she
"The tribe has been in business since December of 1997 and to date they
have only three Catawbas working in the building, and it's like they don't
want us out here. It's our business. The tribe pays all of the expenses.
They pay for all of the New River salaries, plus the employee salaries. The
Catawbas pay for everything."
Crisco said the protesting group felt that the tribe has made more money
than it has reported since 1997 when the bingo hall was first established
in Rock Hill. She said the tribe made about $87 million since.
She said, "We feel like they [SPM and New River] are not being fair to the
Catawbas, because the money at the end of each gaming session, according
the South Carolina bingo laws, was supposed to be turned over to the tribe.
The tribe should determine how the money is to be spent. The tribe doesn't
even get that privilege. The tribe basically has no input on how this bingo
She said she understands, that some of the revenues pay for the salaries at
the tribal offices, plus the property taxes of the bingo hall. "The tribe
is not just the people working at the Long House [tribal offices], it's not
just the executive committee. The tribe is all of us.
Crisco said the group will stage another protest in the near future.