In Carter Lake, Iowa The Ponca Tribe of Nebraska is preparing the site for construction and finalizing agreements to reimburse the city for revenues lost by making the land tribal territory.
Bulldozers are preparing the land even as an effort by Iowa and Nebraska to block the casino is under review by a federal judge. Battles over its location stretch back more than a decade.
The push to proceed with construction began in June when the tribe hosted a low-key groundbreaking ceremony on four acres of land tucked amongst the town’s industrial properties.
Facing a small, sunlit crowd, with a bulldozer as a backdrop, Dwight Howe, the Ponca Tribe’s cultural affairs director offered a prayer in the Ponca’s native language.
“We want to be able to bring something to our nation, so we can truly be self-determined, truly be sovereign,” Howe explained in English to the audience.
Local media were not invited to the groundbreaking ceremony, but it can be seen on the tribe’s YouTube channel.
The ceremonial spades dug into soil just a few hundred feet from the Omaha city line, where casino gaming is forbidden. The lot is currently occupied by a discount tobacco story managed by the tribe. It’s sandwiched between a steel fabricating plant and a trucking company.
“The location is such that it is unique,” said Larry Wright, chair of the Ponca Tribe of Nebraska. “As we have said to everybody, we want to build positive relationships that are mutually beneficial.”
The tribe would not show NET News the architect drawings for the “phase one” casino, a stand-alone building housing up to 2,000 slot machines.
Wright said it would be “a first-rate facility.”
“We want to drive the user experience and provide first class hospitality,” he said.
Plans for a second phase are already in place, financed with proceeds from the first venture and loans from a large, Minnesota-based tribal gaming operation.
The tribe has told Carter Lake officials it will include a seven-story hotel (which may legally be placed on Nebraska land) linked to a more elaborate casino featuring table games like black jack and craps, similar to the large gaming resorts across the Missouri River in Council Bluffs.
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