Members of the Ponca Tribe of Nebraska broke ground on Oct. 31 on their expansion project of the Prairie Flower Casino in Carter Lake in Iowa.
The casino will feature a 600,000-square-foot gaming space set to open by the summer of 2024. The new addition should include more than 600 new gambling machines and a sportsbook, with a gastro pub, dining area, center bar and retail space.
Prairie Flower Casino will be accessible amid the work on the expansion. Once finished, the new addition will expand to six times the casino’s current size, creating 200 new jobs.
Prairie Flower Casino ceremony marks important milestone
The groundbreaking occurred on the 32nd anniversary of the signing of the Ponca Restoration Act, which reestablished the federal government’s formal recognition of the Ponca Tribe of Nebraska. Three decades later, the restoration act became law, giving the Ponca Tribe self-governance once again.
According to Tribal Council Member Angie Starkel, the beginning of the 32nd anniversary of restoration day has a special meaning:
“Today is actually the Ponca Restoration Day and what that is, is that during that era of termination by the U.S. federal government, they stopped recognizing that sovereign nation-to-nation relationship and those treaties that they had with us when they came onto our lands. And with that, they stopped recognizing us as a tribal nation, as a sovereign nation. And that happened and it finalized in 1966.”
Prairie Flower Casino’s fourth anniversary
The expansion’s groundbreaking also comes on the casino’s fourth anniversary. The casino officially opened on Nov. 1, 2018. Since then, the tribe has reinvested $28 million into three health clinics, transportation, housing and cultural preservation.
The Elder’s Committee Chair Carrie Voss said:
“Since I was growing up, of course we lived in poverty, and that’s okay because of course it made me the person that I am today and I’m very humbled to be that way. I would not want it any other kind of way. And that’s why I feel like if you have that, then you feel for other people and you can do for others.”
Since its opening in 2018, the casino has made a massive donation to the city of Carter Lake each year. The casino donated $775,000, which accounts for about 10% of the city’s annual budget. The casino plans to continue having conversations with the city about potential donations in the future.
A potential threat to WarHorse casino?
Lance Morgan, who oversees the WarHorse Casino‘s opening in Nebraska, feels the locally owned casinos could push one of the three Council Bluffs, Iowa casinos out of business. The WarHorse opened a temporary facility in Omaha in late September. Carter Lake is literally minutes from Omaha across the Iowa/Nebraska border and Council Bluffs is also mere miles away.
“We think when Omaha is open and when the Ponca have their facility, that one of the Council Bluffs ones is likely to close … they have three over there and that doesn’t make any sense anymore.”
Although some competition is expected to happen, Morgan doesn’t think the Prairie Flower expansion will impact the WarHorse casinos.
The Tribal Council Member, Starkel, believes the Prairie Flower Casino has its own place in the market:
“We have a niche that is not being met by some of the other casinos. It’s kind of that friendly, neighborhood casino where they feel comfortable. They’re able to get in and the games that they like to play, be greeted, you know, friendly, be treated right. I think that’s kind of what we bring that maybe gets lost in other casinos.”
She also said Monday’s groundbreaking is not a response to Nebraska getting casinos.
“It’s been in our plans all along so it’s in our vision, our plans — so not in response.”