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Blackfeet Plan Grocery Store with Casino Area

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The Blackfeet Nation plans to combine groceries and gaming in a new Browning, Montana-based store.

The tribe is currently reviewing three bids for the 28,000 square-feet grocery store to also include a casino area with 30 to 40 slot machines, reported The Great Falls Tribune. Future expansions may include an eight-pump fuel center.

The $5 million to $6 million-dollar store, Glacier Family Foods, will bring lower prices and an enhanced selection, including Western Family products, to the Browning community. Residents currently shop at the city's Teeples IGA, or travel to Cut Bank, Great Falls, Conrad and Kalispell for competitively priced food, said Reis Fisher, tribal business councilman, to the The Great Falls Tribune.

Teeples IGA is part of a family-owned chain of six stores and has operated in Browning for more than 70 years.

"We feel prices are higher at the other grocery store because they're the only game in town, a monopoly," T.J. Show, the council's executive secretary, told the Associated Press. "The people are the ones who are going to benefit from the stiff competition."

The council will form a board and hire a management team to run the store, which will employ 30 to 60 people. "We want to put a cushion between the store operation and the tribe," Tribal Chairman Willie A. Sharp Jr. told the Tribune.

The store is set to break ground next month; construction could take about seven months.

Initial funding for a new Browning grocery store will come from a portion of the $5.5 million to be paid from an upcoming oil exploration payment from the Houston, Texas-headquartered Newfield Production Company, according to the tribe's press release. From the payment, the Blackfeet tribal council also approved a $200 special per capita for all of the tribe's 16,500 members and more than $1 million for land acquisition.

The tribe expects costs will be recouped in 15 years for the building and seven to 10 years for equipment, based on the loan package.

A percentage of the profits will go to tribal resources "for helping the tribe," Fisher told the AP. "It will be a for-profit store."