CHARLOTTE, N.C. (WJZY) – It started as most stories do: with a tip.
“Somebody reached out and said you might want to take a look at this casino.” Wall Street Journal Senior Editor, Mark Maremont, started digging through several layers of corporations connected to the Two Kings Casino in Kings Mountain.
He uncovered a company that benefits from the casino by giving shares to relatives of high-ranking politicians while the project was seeking federal approval. The casino opened about a year ago.
“The people involved in this thing are already receiving checks,” Maremont told WJZY. “John Clyburn, who is Rep. Jim Clyburn’s brother, told me he received seven to six checks ranging from $600-$1,300 each,” he said.
Others include Michael Haley, former South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley’s husband, Butch Bowers, Haley’s former attorney, and Patti Solis Doyle, a Democratic political operative.
Maremont found their stakes were buried in corporations in documents not accessible to the public.
“I’ve actually reviewed some documents that show the shareholdings of an entity, which itself is a shareholder of this slot machine company,” Maremont said, “which itself gets a share of the profits from the casino, so it’s very well-masked from public view, these shareholdings.”
The stakes gave these relatives a portion of profits from a slot-machine company called Kings Mountain Equipment Supply LLC. Maremont reports the company gets 20 cents on the dollar for all casino profits on their machines. As the casino grows, those with stakes could get five times what they’re receiving now.
Maremont says those involved deny any quid pro quo including Representative James Clyburn, who sponsored a bill that helped make the casino a reality.
“Certainly, the optics were not great for the number three congressman in the House of Representatives, third-ranking congressman, sponsoring a special interest, essentially, legislation,” Maremont told WJZY.
His reporting is drawing questions as to the ethics of the financial arrangement. It sounds as if his article could only be part one of his story.
“Oftentimes when we write these stories, people come forward with new information like, ‘oh, you didn’t know about this or that,’ so I received a couple of tips and we’ll see where they lead,” he said. Maremont added the National Indian Gaming Commission has concerns about non-Catawba backers for the casino having too much power and money over the project.
WJZY has confirmed the NIGC, which regulates tribal gaming, is investigating, but reps declined to elaborate on exactly what that was.