The Ponca tribe's new Prairie Flower Casino in Carter Lake, Iowa on Avenue H and Abbott Drive, near the airport, is up and running Thursday. It's the first one on this side of the Missouri River.
While tribe members are celebrating, casino gambling opponents are expressing their disappointment. Gambling with the Good Life executive director, Pat Loontjer said the Prairie Flower Casino's opening will hurt everyone except the owners, "It's gonna prey upon people that are at the Open Door Mission, people that are from the North side and it's gonna cause an increase in crime, embezzlements, we've seen it with every single casino that's ever gone up,” she said.
However, Ponca Tribe Chairman Larry Wright Jr. said the casino will help Carter Lake, Omaha, and their tribe. “Education, social services, healthcare, all the things that we can expand with the proceeds from this, so it's bigger than just the casino itself and what we do with those proceeds,” Wright Jr. said.
Loontjer said Omaha police and fire will be used to maintain safety. But Wright said the tribe plans to pay for those services. “We've committed to providing three-quarters of a million dollars annually to carter lake for annual contribution to support general city improvements, and also support first responders like police and fire."
As the doors open, the casino's future is still in question. There is currently a pending federal lawsuit seeking to reverse the National Indian's Gaming Commission’s decision to let the casino open, claiming it was built under false pretenses. Ponca Tribe attorney James Meggesto says the tribe is confident the court will rule in their favor like they have every time before. “The tribe has the sovereign right to conduct gaming once the NIGC ruled in our favor,” said Meggesto. But Loontjer says if the casino stays open no one will benefit. “It's not a win win, it's gonna be a lose lose, for the city,” she said.
The Open Door Mission, just a few blocks away, also opposes the casino. Wright Jr. said the casino has created 100 new jobs and its profits will support a clinic in Ralston, as well as other community services.