In North Dakota, the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe is reportedly facing a $6 million shortfall in its annual budget due to winter business at its Prairie Knights Casino And Resort being adversely affected by severe weather and the nearby protests against the construction of the controversial Dakota Access Pipeline.
According to a report from The Bismarck Tribune newspaper, December saw the Sioux County casino transformed into an unlikely refuge as hundreds of people made their way from the nearby Oceti Sakowin protest encampment in search of shelter from sub-zero temperatures and winds of over 40mph.
As the weather worsened and the number of sheltering protestors inside the Fort Yates venue increased, the newspaper reported that gambling revenues declined sharply as many regulars stayed away. This situation further exacerbated a drop brought about by the earlier closure of the nearby Backwater Bridge on North Dakota Highway 1806, which meant that Bismarck-area players were forced to take a ten-mile detour in order to reach the Prairie Knights Casino And Resort.
“It’s like it’s fallen off a cliff,” Jerome Long Bottom, Chief Financial Officer for the Standing Rock Sioux Tribal Council, told The Bismarck Tribune. “When the bridge was shut off, the numbers just plummeted.”
Although he was unable to disclose specific information regarding casino revenues, Long Bottom told the newspaper that a 2012 economic development strategy report stating that the casino brought in $12.6 million for the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe in 2010 was “high compared to what we are faced with now”.
In order to alleviate the looming shortfall and keep its myriad of social programs fully funded, Long Bottom told The Bismarck Tribune that the Standing Rock Tribal Council had been forced to supplement a portion of the casino’s lost income with $3.2 million from donations to its No Dakota Access Pipeline (NoDAPl) account. But, this cash is only set to last until the end of April after which time the tribe may be forced to again utilize NoDAPl funds or dip into its savings account, which would severely hamper planned investment into the Prairie Knights Casino And Resort.
“That’s only going to get us so far,” Long Bottom told the newspaper. “Something is going to get shorted.”
Located just over 61 miles south of Bismarck, the Prairie Knights Casino And Resort employs about 350 people with the newspaper reporting that approximately 60% of these come from the tribe’s Standing Rock Reservation, which includes all of Sioux County along with the entirety of Corson County in neighboring South Dakota.
The Bismarck Tribune reported that the casino is moreover a major economic driver for the whole region and purchased $9.1 million in goods and services from 267 North Dakota businesses last year including $6.7 million from 224 enterprises in the Bismarck area.
“Less business [at the casino] is less business for everybody and we are willing to do anything on our side to help out [the casino as] they’re a class act down there, the people managing the casino,” Greg Ehli from the Bismarck branch of laundry services provider AmeriPride Services Incorporated, told the newspaper.