A new casino’s planned, just 20 miles south of Sioux City. The Nebraska Winnebago tribe announced this week its Ho-Chunk economic-development corporation plans to open a gaming operation on reservation land in Nebraska about 80 miles north of Omaha. Danelle Smith is general counsel for the Winnebago tribe, and has a law degree from the University of Iowa. Ho-Chunk, Inc. has been involved in many ventures and owns a construction company, part of a modular housing manufacturing firm in Minnesota, and a chain of convenience stores. Right now the tribe’s working with Ho-Chunk Community Development Corporation to build a commercial-industrial-residential development in Winnebago, a 40-acre “HoChunk Village.” Smith explains the tribe doesn’t tax citizens like many local governments do, to get money for public projects, infrastructure or economic-development. That’s why many have opened casinos, to raise money for their tribal operations. Years ago the tribe opened the Winne-Vegas casino on the Iowa side of its reservation but the state quickly caught on and set up its own riverboat casinos. Smith says the tribe took profits from those early days and put it into Ho-Chunk Inc and economic-development plans aimed at sustaining the tribe in the long term. The tribe has a compact with the state of Iowa that allows it to operate a full-scale “Class three” casino with slot machines and table games. Lacking that, tribes are limited to bingo games — and that’s what the new casino on the Nebraska side of the Winnebago reservation will have, though you might not recognize them. New technology’s come up with machines that look like slot machines — but they’re not, they’re really hi-tech bingo games networked to other similar games at “class 2” gaming halls around the country. The University of Iowa law student interned with the Ho-Chunk corporation and after graduating with her law degree last year became general counsel for the tribe, licensed to practice law in Nebraska. The tribe plans to open the Iron Horse Bar and Casino Friday in the town of Emerson, which is partly on reservation land and partly outside the Indian land. Nebraska officials, who say they just learned of the plan, say they’ll look into the legality of the new gambling hall.
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