By Jack McNeel -- Today correspondent
FORT WASHAKIE, Wyo. - The first casino for the Eastern Shoshone on the Wind River Reservation, Shoshone Rose Casino, is set for a grand opening in October.
This initial venture into casino gaming is located between Lander and Fort Washakie and will be conducted on a modest level. Willy Noseep, tribal committee member, outlined the plans.
''There will be 100 machines in this facility to start with; and then we'll put in another 50 or 60 in the next month or so, including about 40 in the nonsmoking room, so we'll have about 160 soon. It's about a 7,000-square-foot building - a small building, really. It's a start for us and a chance to get our feet wet which will hopefully propel us into bigger and better things.
''We have a real nice compact that was negotiated with the state of Wyoming and finalized on May 6, 2006. We don't have any revenue sharing with the state. We're just limited by actual gaming space, which is 69,000 square feet divided between four locations. This particular location only has three or four thousand feet of actual gaming space, so we have plenty of space for additional expansion.''
As in the case of other tribes, revenues generated will be utilized for such things as beginning other economic ventures and promoting such development, funding for health care, for children's programs and things of that nature.
''We don't expect any revenue sharing with tribal members at this point. We currently have per capita payment that comes from oil and gas royalties,'' Noseep explained. Most of the roughly 3,800 enrolled Eastern Shoshone tribal members live on the reservation, which is about 2.2 million acres in size and shared with the Northern Arapaho Tribe.
Noseep was designated by the tribal council to work on gaming, ''so I kind of threw myself into it.'' This casino will employ about 45 to 50 employees with average salaries in the $11 to $12 per hour range. ''We'll be providing good jobs for tribal members,'' he said.
The tribe has a long-term plan to construct a larger casino with perhaps 500 machines and 10 table games in about 20,000 feet of gaming space, plus a couple of restaurants. A site has been selected about nine miles north of Riverton. The hope is this can be done in the next couple of years, but the success of the Shoshone Rose Casino will affect the timing and development of a larger casino.
''What's really needed around here is hotel and motel space, so phase I will be a larger casino, phase II would be a hotel, and phase III after that would be anything extra, like an RV park,'' Noseep added.
The majority of their customers are expected to come from the Lander area and Fort Washakie, but Noseep expects to get customers from farther away as well.
''We'll pick up customers from Riverton, too, and maybe Casper; plus just tourists coming through en route to Yellowstone and things like that. We're not in it to take money out of the pockets of our tribal members. We look at it as a way to get more people employed and a way to generate revenue.
''My take on it is that a lot of the non-Indian people, and even tribal people that like to gamble, would rather gamble locally instead of going to Wendover, Nevada, or Black Hawk, Colorado, or Deadwood, South Dakota, all four to six hours away. This will be convenient for them.''