Poncas: Iowa casino would boost region’s economy

Carter Lake, Iowa (AP) 6-08

The Ponca Tribe of Nebraska estimates that its proposed casino in Carter Lake, next to Omaha, would create 1,800 jobs and provide an economic boon for the region.

The tribe released its projections amid mounting opposition from state officials in Nebraska and Iowa. Attorneys general in both states are seeking judicial reviews in Iowa federal court to halt the project.

The Poncas estimate that a casino on its tribal lands in Carter Lake would draw about 3 million visitors annually and increase the annual economic output of Iowa and Nebraska by nearly $130 million.

Larry Wright Jr., chairman of the Poncas’ tribal council, said the tribe shared its estimates after the state of Iowa refused repeated requests to meet with tribal leaders.

“Out of respect to Iowa, we held the details of our world-class casino resort until the state had time to understand the sound arguments and facts,” he said.

“But now our tribal members and the citizens of Iowa need to understand what’s at stake.” 


Officials in Nebraska and Iowa have announced they intend to challenge a National Indian Gaming Commission decision that allowed gaming on the tribe’s restored lands. The Iowa attorney general’s office says the Poncas do not have authority under federal law to use the land for gambling and had only intended to use it for a health clinic.

Wright said that the tribe stated publicly in 2000 that it could pursue gaming in Carter Lake.

“We didn’t enter Carter Lake intending to build a casino, but after seeing the benefits gaming provides other Iowa tribal governments, we decided to exercise our rights to provide for our people,” Wright said.

The National Indian Gaming Commission approved a gaming ordinance for the casino in December, and the tribe announced its casino plans the next month. The only remaining step before construction is negotiating an agreement with the state of Iowa.

“The state of Iowa needs to stop avoiding the issue,” Wright said. “They’ve negotiated gaming compacts with three other Native American tribes and allowed other gaming to expand across the state. We’re no longer willing to be singled out in order to protect the corporate interests that oppose us.”

Carter Lake is on the Nebraska side of the Missouri River, northeast of Omaha. Its land was originally on the river’s east side, but flooding and shifting in the late 1800s left Carter Lake on the west side, according to the city’s Web site. The U.S. Supreme Court ruled in 1892 that the city still belonged to Iowa.