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  • Casino gets shut down

    ONAWA, Iowa -- Following a recommendation of U.S. tribal gaming regulators, the Omaha Tribe of Nebraska closed its CasinOmaha on Tuesday.

    The move to indefinitely suspend operations at the casino near Onawa, Iowa, leaves 185 casino workers unemployed and the tribe without a major source of revenue.

    The tribe plans to renovate and modernize the 17-year-old facility, with plans to reopen "as soon as possible,'' general manager Jim Hunt said.

    "The business needs a face-lift,'' Hunt said. "It's been here 17 years. Obviously, we haven't put a lot of capital back into the business."

    ''We are certain to reopen with a much improved casino -- a casino that will be fun, entertaining and a better chance to win,'' he added.

    The shutdown, reported first at siouxcityjournal.com, comes two weeks after the National Indian Gaming Commission recommended the casino voluntarily close, Hunt said. The commission, which oversees gaming on tribal land, had earlier cited the casino for three violations of commission "processes and procedures,'' he said.

    Hunt, who took over as general manager about six weeks ago, declined to elaborate on the infractions, which the casino worked with the NIGC to resolve. The Tribal Council decided to accept the commission's recommendation to temporarily close to help turn the casino around and make it more profitable, he said.

    The recessionary economy and past management problems also played a role in the council's decision to suspend operations, he said. Attendance has fallen steadily since August. Other U.S. casinos also have struggled in the aftermath of the global financial crisis.

    The Tribal Council shared reasons for the closing with tribal members Tuesday morning at its offices in Macy, Neb.

    Darren Wolfe, a member of the Omaha Tibe and the Thurston County Board of Supervisors, said some who attended the forum planned to circulate a petition demanding that Tribal Council members not receive their salaries while the casino is shut down. They hope to submit the petition at a council meeting Friday, he said.

    "There were quite a few angry people,'' Wolfe said.

    Wolfe, whose family operates a grocery store in Macy, said he worries about the economic impact on the community during the casino's shutdown.

    The displaced casino workers, who learned of the closing at 8 a.m. meetings Tuesday, will be eligible for unemployment benefits. A large percentage of workers are members of the tribe, which historically has struggled with high unemployment on its reservation.

    In 1992, the tribe opened the Las Vegas-style casino on reservation land on the Iowa side of the Missouri River, known as Blackbird Bend, about five miles northwest of the Monona County city of Onawa.

    In the early years, the casino drew heavily from the Sioux City and Omaha-Council Bluffs metro areas, one-way drives of about 30 miles and 60 miles, respectively. Today, it competes with three large casinos in Council Bluffs and one in Sioux City, as well as a neighboring tribal casino, WinnaVegas, which the Winnebago Tribe operates near Sloan, Iowa.

    Ann Crawford, director of the Onawa Chamber of Commerce, said CasinOmaha brought a great deal of business to the city in the first few years but that it's mostly dried up.

    "People come up the interstate, go to the casino and leave,'' Crawford said.

    Before the shutdown, CasinOmaha featured 430 slot machines, eight table games and a restaurant. Hunt said the renovations will include switching to a completely coinless slot floor. Instead, patrons will use a ticket system to play slots and redeem prizes.

    "The coin is a huge labor-intensive process,'' he said. "The ticket is much more convenient for guests. It keeps them from having to carry around buckets of coins.''

    The Lincoln Journal-Star contributed to this report.

    At a glance

    What happened: The Omaha Tribe of Nebraska suspended operations at its CasinOmaha near Onawa, Iowa, on Tuesday.

    What's behind the move: Economic conditions, along with a recommendation from the National Indian Gaming Commission, contributed to the Tribal Council's decision to close the casino temporarily.

    What's next: After renovating the 17-year-old facility and switching to new coinless-slot machines, the casino plans to reopen "as soon as possible.''

  • #2
    Yeah right

    NOW THAT IS NOT THE REASON WHY THEY CLOSED DOWN !!!

    They are just saying that for a dam COVER-UP !!

    The Tribe had no money !!!, , YET AGAIN, A stupid mistake from the Tribal Council !!!, embezzzling money into there own damm accounts !!!

    Thee Omaha Tribe of Nebraska NEEDS to get thereselves together !!!

    I AM ASHAMED !!!!!!!!!!!!

    Do you know how much people are walking around here without jobs ??, WAY over a 100 !!!i mean alot more, i cant think of the number, but it is way high !!!

    the powwow this year, would probrably have to be a tradishional !!!!!!!!!

    THHEEE OLDEST POWWOW OUT THERE !!!!!

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