Leaders of the Ponca Tribe held a ceremonial groundbreaking for its casino in Carter Lake, Iowa, on June 8, 2018. Photo courtesy Ponca Tribe

Ponca Tribe negotiates casino agreement as construction and litigation continues

The gaming facility will be known as the Prairie Flower Casino, according to Table Trac, Inc., whose CasinoTrac system will be installed there.

The Ponca Tribe continues work on a controversial casino amid opposition in two states.

The tribe broke ground on the Prairie Flower Casino in Carter Lake, Iowa, last month. Local officials support the project and are negotiating an agreement to address municipal services and other impacts of the casino, NET News reported.

“The Ponca Tribe can build its casino on its sovereign land with or without the permission of Carter Lake,” council member Pat Paterson told NET News.

Ponca Tribe on YouTube: Groundbreaking for Casino Project

But officials in nearby Council Bluffs don't feel the same way. They are suing the federal government in hopes of stopping the tribe and protecting the commercial facilities they depend on for revenues.

The states of Iowa and Nebraska also oppose the casino. They joined the Council Bluffs lawsuit in May and have since filed respective intervenor complaints against the Department of the Interior and the National Indian Gaming Commission, the defendants in the case.

“We think we are being unfairly scrutinized,” Ponca Chairman Larry Wright told NET News. “This issue with Nebraska, and I don’t think anyone can argue, is largely because at the political level, they don’t want gaming.”

The tribe has not given an opening date for the casino but it's possible it could be finished before the resolution of the lawsuit. So far, the case hasn't moved beyond the Trump administration's answers to the various complaints.

At issue is whether the land in Carter Lake can be used for a casino. The NIGC determined that the 4.8-acre site qualifies for gaming because the Poncas are a "restored" tribe.

The tribe, whose ancestors were forced out of Nebraska in the late 1800s, was terminated by the federal government but was later restored to recognition by Congress.

An aerial view of Carter Lake, Iowa, shows the location of the Ponca Smoke Signals Shop, a tobacco shop operated by the Ponca Tribe on its trust land in the city. The Eppley Airfield in Omaha, Nebraska, can be seen at the top. Image: Google Earth

Though Carter Lake is located in Iowa, it is physically surrounded by Nebraska due to the shifting nature of the Missouri River. It's less than a mile from Omaha’s Eppley Airfield, which sees more than 4 million passengers every year.

The city is also less than five minutes from downtown Omaha, a metropolitan region that's home to more than 900,000 people.

Read More on the Story:
Ponca casino on Nebraska's border may open soon despite lawsuit (NET News July 19, 2018)

National Indian Gaming Commission Documents:
November 14, 2017 Decision | December 31, 2007 Decision

8th Circuit Court of Appeals Decision:
Nebraska v. Department of Interior (October 19, 2010)

Join the Conversation

Related Stories
Ponca Tribe marches toward sovereignty with long-awaited gaming project (June 13, 2018)
Ponca Tribe faces familiar opponent in long-running quest for casino (May 31, 2018)
Ponca Tribe facing faith-based opposition to long delayed casino (March 26, 2018)
Ponca Tribe 'always open to talk' about contested gaming project (March 5, 2018)
Ponca Tribe faces roadblock with lawsuit challenging restoration of homelands (December 15, 2017)
Ponca Tribe prepares for brighter future with plans for $26 million health center (December 6, 2017)
Ponca Tribe faces challenge to casino as city in Iowa moves forward with lawsuit (November 28, 2017)
Ponca Tribe secures victory in long-running battle over restoration of homelands (November 15, 2017)