After over a decade of legal struggles, the federally-recognized Ponca Tribe of Nebraska has now reportedly been given permission to build and operate a tribal casino on land it owns in the small Iowa city of Carter Lake.
According to a report from the Omaha World-Herald newspaper, the proposed site for the coming venue is located less than a mile from Iowa’s border with Nebraska, which does not allow casino gambling, and it is hoped that the enterprise will draw a large number of its future players from that state’s largest city, Omaha.
The newspaper reported that the Ponca Tribe of Nebraska, which has approximately 4,100 enrolled members spread across the region, purchased the Carter Lake plot in 1999 before applying to build a casino featuring some 2,000 slots and 50 gaming tables as well as a 150-room hotel eight years later.
Despite having its proposal approved by the National Indian Gaming Commission soon after, the tribe’s plan was reportedly derailed after Nebraska, Iowa and leaders from its nearby city of Council Bluffs filed a federal lawsuit in opposition. At issue was a purported contention that a lawyer working on behalf of the Ponca Tribe of Nebraska had agreed in 2003 not to apply to bring a casino to the land in exchange for Iowa’s state government not fighting to stop the plot being placed into trust.
However, 2010 reportedly saw the United States Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit rule in favor of the tribe and order the National Indian Gaming Commission to review the initial decision in conjunction with the United States Department of the Interior and its Bureau of Indian Affairs subordinate. The Omaha World-Herald explained that the ensuing examination has now determined that there is no evidence that the alleged oral agreement had ever been ‘reduced to writing’, which leaves the way open for the Ponca Tribe of Nebraska to open a casino on the contentious land.
“They have reaffirmed the tribe’s sovereign right to conduct gaming here,” Larry Wright Jr, Chairman for the Ponca Tribe of Nebraska, reportedly told the newspaper. “We look forward to having a respectful and productive dialogue with the appropriate officials in Iowa. We’re going to be putting our money back into our communities.”
Should it ever be built, the Ponca Tribe of Nebraska’s casino is reportedly bound to face stiff competition from the three casinos already located in Iowa’s Pottawattamie County. These encompass the Horseshoe Council Bluffs and the Harrah’s Council Bluffs from Caesars Entertainment Corporation as well as Pinnacle Entertainment Incorporated’s Ameristar Council Bluffs with the trio last year purportedly generating adjusted gross revenues of $416 million and paying around $85 million in gaming taxes.
The Omaha World-Herald cited Council Bluffs Mayor Matt Walsh as stating that he expects to receive about $3 million of these gaming taxes this year, which equates to around 1.7% of the city’s overall budget, and that the appearance of any new casino at Carter Lake would ‘cannibalize’ some of this sum. But, he reportedly stated that this loss ‘would not be a huge amount’ and that his administration now intends to seek advice from an outside law firm regarding whether to appeal the National Indian Gaming Commission’s latest ruling.