PICKSTOWN, S.D. (MCT) – Fort Randall Casino and Yankton Sioux tribal officials kicked off a $10 million expansion project Aug. 30 aimed at making the casino a family destination resort.
Tribal council member Jody Zephier, of Wagner, said afterward that American Indian casinos have gained visitors compared to Las Vegas casinos because more visitors want to stay closer to home. Tribes in Wisconsin are incorporating swimming pools and daycare centers in their casinos.
“We are trying to offer Vegas-style gambling, but you can also bring your family,” Zephier said. “We looked at some market studies and a lot of research and decided that’s what we need to do.
“Like any business, you’ve got to try it out.”
Casino General Manager Mike Redlightning noted the casino will be a draw for those who enjoy outdoor recreation on the Missouri River. Adults can enjoy gaming and entertainment, with a pool for children.
The 68,000-square-foot casino, which opened in June 1991, has a gaming floor that includes 250 slot machines, six blackjack tables and three poker tables, a bingo hall with a capacity for 125, a three-story hotel with 58 rooms, and a restaurant and lounge.
Redlightning said the casino was built without much planning for future additions. Its ventilation system falls short, he said.
“We got our use out of it,” Redlightning said of the current casino.
The addition will add 31,000 square feet of space, and he anticipates the project will be completed in five years.
The casino, which employs 300 people, 90 percent of whom are American Indian, will add 30 to 50 new jobs, Redlightning said.
The first phase, which is expected to be finished next May, will feature a new gaming floor with a state-of-the-art ventilation system to eliminate smoke. New slot machines will be added, with upgraded blackjack, poker and bingo areas.
A 500-seat convention center/bingo hall with a stage will be built during the second phase, along with a swimming pool, fitness center and a seven-story, 100-room hotel. The fitness center will be open to the public and offer memberships.
The third phase will include new restaurant and entertainment areas.
Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux Community tribe in Prior Lake, Minn., is loaning the tribe the money, Redlightning said.
He noted the casino needs more space to draw more outdoor acts.
During the ceremony, Dennis Rucker, tribal council member from Pickstown, said the expansion project has been his long term dream in his seven years on the council.
“I believe that this will be our great attraction,” he said. “I know this will be a great improvement for our tribe.”
Karen Archambeau, tribal council vice chairwoman from Wagner, said several meetings took place to reach the point of breaking ground Aug. 30. She served on the building committee.
“I’m so proud to be able to stand here and say I took part in this and I had an opportunity to make this decision,” Archambeau said.
She said afterward that the casino expansion will draw more visitors. But it also will generate more jobs and help the tribe recover from June flood losses.
“Mostly it’s for our families to be able to seek employment to support their families, because we are in a high poverty area here,” Archambeau said. “We had a flood recently that just knocked the pants off of us.
“I think with this new expansion, people are really going to be proud when it’s done and they’re going to want to come here.”
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