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Mille Lacs Commission is new manager at Prairie Knights Casino

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FORT YATES, N.D. - In the midst of a massive expansion at the Prairie Knights Casino and Hotel, the Standing Rock Sioux Tribal Council has hired a new management group.

As of midnight June 13, the Mille Lacs Commission of the Mille Lacs Band of Ojibwe will take over those responsibilities.

In mid-May the council heard proposals from Seven Circles Resorts, Iron Eyes and Gates, Silver Winds and the Mille Lacs Band which operates two casinos on its Minnesota reservation.

The casino has been managed by Seven Circles, a group founded in Switzerland that manages casino interests worldwide. Members of the tribe and council members have voiced concerns that Seven Circles failed to include management training for tribal employees and place them in key positions at the casino as promised.

Councilman Milton Brown Otter said few tribal members received adequate training for management.

The management issue has been debated for months by tribal council members who said few tribal employees were being trained. Lloyd Liken, who has been finance manager as an employee of Seven Circles Resorts, said the company has placed managers in key roles including sales, the lodge and on the casino floor.

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Of the 380 employees at the casino, Likens said 76 percent are Native Americans and 62 percent of those employees are in management positions.

During a June 1 meeting the council, still turning over details of proposed management, twice went into executive session. Chairman Charles Murphy and Councilwoman Reva Gates at one point objected to the meeting being taped or notes taken on a laptop computer.

Although the tribe allows the radio station to tape its open sessions, they are not played until a week later.

Observers including Robert Primeaux, who is running for tribal chairman, said earlier discussions including presentations made by each of the firms interested in managing the casino were in open session.

The casino opened nine years ago with an initial investment of $13.5 million. The lodge and hotel including 65 rooms and two suites opened in July 1995. Twenty-five rooms and two more suites will be added to the hotel along with a pavilion that will seat as many as 2,000 people for concerts, conventions and entertainment. The $7.5 million expansion will be completed by June 30, Likens said.

The casino's management has focused on attracting traffic from nearby Bismarck and bringing tourists to the area, but without a bridge crossing the nearby Missouri River, travelers are forced to cross at Mobridge, S.D., or Bismarck. During the summer months, the casino operates a ferry service that allows passengers to ride from across the river to a casino shuttle, he said.