The Ponca Tribe of Nebraska has announced that it will open its casino, currently under development in Carter Lake, Iowa, in late October, despite facing legal challenges from the states of Nebraska and Iowa.
The Ponca Tribe broke ground on the controversial gambling venue in June. In a statement from Monday, tribal Chairman Larry Wright Jr. said that the property will be developed in several phases and that the first phase will feature a 9,500-square-foot gaming floor with 200 slot machines. There will be no table games at the casino.
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The tribal Chairman also announced that the casino will be called Prairie Flower Casino, named after the daughter of a former chief of the tribe who died during the Poncas’ forced removal from their Nebraska land.
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The initial phase is expected to create 100 jobs. Aside from the casino portion, the property will also feature a bar and a snack bar. Only people aged 21 or over will be admitted to the gaming floor.
The tribe said that it will announce an official grand opening date at a later point and as construction enters its closing stages.
The upcoming opening of the gambling venue will mark the conclusion of the lengthy legal and bureaucratic battles the tribe had to fight over the years to materialize the project.
Last fall, the National Indian Gaming Commission ruled that the Ponca Tribe could develop its gaming facility on 5 acres of land it owns in Carter Lake. The tribe currently has 4,300 enrolled members, half of whom live in Nebraska and Iowa.
The tribe was forced out of Nebraska in the late 19th century and had its status of an independent nation terminated by the Federal Government. The tribe regained recognition by the Congress in the 1990s. Under federal laws, tribes can operate gambling properties as long as these are built on land they own and gambling is legal in the respective state.
The tribe is currently being sued by both Iowa and Nebraska. Iowa was the first to legally challenge the construction of the casino, arguing that it would cannibalize revenue from the state’s existing commercial casinos, which would, in turn, impact tax contributions.
Nebraska joined the anti-casino drive earlier this year. Casino gambling is illegal in the state and officials pointed out that they do not want a gambling property so close to the border. Although the city of Carter Lake is located in Iowa, it is practically surrounded by Nebraska land.
The Ponca Tribe’s casino will thus be located less than a mile from the Eppley Airfield in Omaha, Nebraska. The airfield annually serves over 4 million passengers. Carter Lake is also less than five minutes from downtown Omaha.
The metropolitan region homes more than 900,000 people.
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