An initiative being proposed for the November ballot would clear the way to build a casino near the Iowa-Nebraska border that would be jointly owned by three Nebraska Indian tribes. Roger Trudell, chairman of the Santee Sioux tribe, says unemployment on his reservation is about 70-percent, and the revenue would be used to develop jobs.
Trudell calls it all part of a larger effort, not to try to make gaming more prevalent but to create a single multi-tribe owned facility to generate income for all three tribes involved — the Omaha, Winnebago, and Santee Sioux.
Eleanor Baxter, chair of the Omaha Tribe, says the goal is tribal economic development and services. With today’s job market, she says there are no jobs. The Bureau of Indian Affairs has programs that employ some tribal members but she says their jobless rate is still 60 to 70-percent. Asked where the money would come from, advocates say some of it’s already being spent on other forms of gambling in Nebraska, and some is going to gambling in neighboring states.
One of Iowa’s busiest gambling spots right now is the Horseshoe Casino in Council Bluffs. Omaha Tribal Chairman John Blackhawk wasn’t touting gambling as better than other economic-development routes, but also suggested the benefits were partly a matter of attitude.
Blackhawk says it depends on how you view gaming, saying nobody has “an extra million to go to casinos,” but if you look at it as entertainment, providing a service, hosting guests and giving back to the community, it’s a different story. Nebraska has not legalized casino gambling but federal law permits tribes in many states to run their own casinos.
If an Omaha-area tribal casino is built, 70 percent of net profits would go to the tribes. A consultant says that could total 20 to 40 million dollars a year for each. The other 30 percent of the profits would be funneled through a foundation to distribute to non-tribal entities including schools, county and municipal governments, and compulsive gamblers assistance programs.
The tribes will seek the approval of voters in the Husker State if they can collect enough signatures by July 7th.