Ponca Tribe Opens Controversial Prairie Flower Casino Near Omaha

Nov. 1, 2018, 4:30 p.m. ·

Ponka Tribe of Nebraska Chairman Larry Wright, Jr. cuts a ribbon to open the Prairie Flower Casino. (Photo by Allison Mollenkamp, NET News)

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The Ponca Tribe opened their controversial Prairie Flower Casino Thursday in Carter Lake, Iowa.

A chilly morning didn’t stop a few dozen people from attending the opening of the Prairie Flower Casino. They gathered to listen to leaders of the Ponca Tribe and other stakeholders speak about the latest step in a long road to a Ponca-owned casino.

Larry Wright, Jr., chairman of the Ponca Tribe of Nebraska (Photo by Allison Mollenkamp, NET News)

Larry Wright Jr. is the Chairman of the Ponca Tribe of Nebraska. He emphasized the economic impact of the casino’s 100 jobs.

“Those hundred people that we hired here today that work for the casino, about 20 are Ponca members. The rest are from Carter Lake, Council Bluffs, Omaha, and the metro area. This is truly a group effort,” Wright Jr. said.

The small, 200-slot machine casino is in Carter Lake, Iowa, just minutes from downtown Omaha and the Nebraska border. The mayor of Carter Lake has supported the project, and the city will get about three-quarters of a million dollars from the tribe every year. Some of that money will go to the police and fire departments.

The Prairie Flower Casino. (Photo by Allison Mollenkamp, NET News)

Other local leaders are not as happy with the project. The city of Council Bluffs, as well as Iowa and Nebraska, are suing the federal government over its decision to allow the casino project to move forward.

The federal government has upheld the Ponca’s sovereign right to build the casino twice. Thursday, Wright focused on the positive side, including how far the Ponca tribe has come. In the 1960’s the U.S. government ended its recognition of the Ponca tribe, and did not re-start the relationship until 1990.

Slot machines at the Prairie Flower Casino. (Photo by Allison Mollenkamp, NET News)

“It’s just, it’s really overwhelming, you know, to see, yesterday as we shared a private event with our tribal members, our elders, who were alive when the tribe was terminated, and we lost the last of our land holdings at that time, to see their faces, to see what this means for our people.” Wright Jr. said.

An attorney for the Ponca tribe expects briefings in the most recent iteration of legal battles to wrap up in the next few days.