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Grand Falls Casino Resort Opens on South Dakota Border

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Native Sun News reports that on June 9 Kehl Management Co. celebrated the grand opening of its $120 million Grand Falls Casino Resort, located in Larchwood, Iowa—just six miles east of Sioux Falls, South Dakota, the gaming-congested city where Grand Falls' target market base resides.

While South Dakota's smoking ban implemented last November has caused the state's gambling revenues from its 1,470 establishments to drop by more than 17 percent from the same period last year, Iowa exempts its gaming facilities from its statewide smoking ban. Grand Falls Casino Resort was unanimously approved by Lyons County commissioners because it will likely draw 80 percent of its revenue from other states and thus not detract from the business of Iowa's 17 other casinos, including three Indian-owed casinos (the Omaha Tribe of Nebraska's Casino Omaha in Onawa, the Sac & Fox Tribe of Mississippi in Iowa's Meskwaki Bingo Casino Hotel in Tama, and the Winnebago Tribe of Nebraska's WinnaVegas Casino Resort in Sloan), reported Native Sun News.

The Flandreau Santee Sioux Tribe (FSST), which operates Royal River Casino Hotel in Flandreau, South Dakota, about 40 miles north of Sioux Falls, previously commissioned a study by KlasRobinson QED, a Minneapolis-based hospitality-consulting firm, which projected the state of South Dakota will lose $18 million a year in video lottery revenues to the Grand Falls casino, reported Native Sun News. FSST leaders partnered with state legislators Sen. Gene Abdallah (R-Sioux Falls) and Sen. Minority Leader Scott Heidepriem (D-Sioux Falls) in 2009 on a bill that would have permitted voters to decide whether the state constitution should be amended to allow a casino in Sioux Falls. The measure failed, and Sen. Abdallah fears the fate of Royal River.

"It's going to hurt Sioux Falls. It's going to hurt Flandreau," Sen. Abdallah told the Associated Press of his prediction for Grand Falls.

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While Grand Falls' business may hurt South Dakota, FSST leaders are confident the casino will not negatively affect Royal River, which currently offers just 250 slot machines and 10 table games, reported the AP. The Shakopee Mdewakanton Community—which runs Prior Lake, Minnesota-based Mystic Lake Casino Hotel, Twin Cities’ only casino hotel and one of the largest midwest casinos—is actually working with the FSST to expand and upgrade Royal River. “That’s why we are flourishing right now," FSST member Mike Long told Native Sun News. "Shakopee told us not to worry. They are the ones helping us. They told us to just fix the one that you have, don’t worry about building another one."

Similarly, Grand Falls' Chief Operating Officer Joe Massa, who worked at the Flandreau-run casino in the early 1990s, told the AP he thinks Grand Falls' market will not overlap with Royal River. The 250,000-square foot Grand Falls Casino, estimated to bring in $70 million a year, offers 900 slot machines, 24 table games, a poker room with eight tables, eight restaurants, a 97-room hotel with luxury accommodations and indoor and outdoor pools and hot tubs, a women's and men's spa, and a 1,200-seat events center anticipated to host national entertainment acts, reported the AP. Named after the 100-foot-wide waterfall behind the gaming house, Grand Falls will also feature a Rees Jones-designed 18-hole golf course by spring 2013, reported Sioux City, Iowa's local news station KTIV. The casino will employ 750 full-time and part-time employees, in contrast to Royal River's 300 employees, reported Native Sun News.