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Kiowa Casino meets NIGC compliance for grand opening

ANADARKO, Okla. - After several delays and postponed grand opening dates, the Kiowa Casino is now in compliance with the National Indian Gaming Commission and will be ready for business when it opens to the public May 23 near Randlett, close to the Red River border between Oklahoma and Texas. Events pre-dating the opening include a May 21 employee pep rally and a tribal celebration on May 22.

''There's actually 19 terms of our pre-opening agreement that had to be complied with, some of which had to be completed 60 days before we planned to open,'' said Lee Rhoades, Kiowa Casino Operating Authority chairman. ''There was no way to know what that 60 days was going to be until we got that information in their hands, and they could say 'yes' or 'no.'''

Among the last of the terms to get approval from NIGC were issues of licensing up to 60 individual employees, as well as lenders, developers and consultants that are involved with the casino. Rhoades said that this process can take up to 90 days prior to the grand opening being approved.

The Kiowa Tribe, whose tribal complex is located in Carnegie, has made previous efforts at having a casino. According to a July 2000 Indian Country Today article, these past efforts resulted in a June 2000 closing of their former casino for operating Class III games for which they were not authorized, as well as an FBI investigation. In order to avoid making future mistakes, much more care and consideration has gone into making and keeping a pre-opening agreement between the Kiowa Tribe and the NIGC.

''They were in the casino business before, and that predates my time involved,'' Rhoades explained. ''As I understand it, it had to do with games that were in operation by the Kiowa Casino that were deemed, at the time, Class III games. The tribe did not have a compact to operate those games with the state. Subsequently, those games were found to really meet Class II standards. That was after the tribe had been given what's called a closure order by the NIGC. In 2004, about the time I got involved, an effort was made to see what had to be done to lift the closure order. That's where this pre-opening agreement came about that was negotiated with the National Indian Gaming Commission and finalized in fall of 2005.''

In addition to the rigorous pre-opening compliance standards, Rhoades said the Kiowa Tribe has hired the financial consulting firm of RSM McGladrey to be their external auditors.

The 65,000-square-foot casino will feature more than 900 slot machines and over 20 table games. There will also be three restaurants within the casino - a buffet with seating for over 200 guests, a sports bar and grill, and a place for fine dining, featuring steak and seafood. There is currently no hotel in this initial stage of development, but one is planned for future developments.

Rhoades said that market studies conducted for the casino estimate $70 million in expected gross revenue in the first 12 months, with notes for the purchase of the games expected to be clear at the end of three years. At the end of five years, cumulative net profit for the Kiowa Tribe is estimated at $100 million. These profits would go toward funding of existing tribal programs, the creation of new programs and employment for tribal members.

''We sincerely hope that the quality of the facility will translate to people associating that with the Kiowa Tribe and people wanting to do business in other areas besides gaming,'' Rhoades said. ''It's really the beginning of economic development and expansion for the tribe.''