Oklahoma Tribe Breaks Ground on New Casino

Oct. 21--BARTLESVILLE -- Tucked into the hills west of Bartlesville, the Washington County road that leads to the site of the Osage Nation's newest casino is decidedly rural.

But the 16,000-member tribe's enthusiasm for its new gaming venture was clear, with the attendance of 75 members and local officials at a Thursday groundbreaking.

The Osage Nation is gambling that building a new casino miles out of town in an area with limited infrastructure will pay off.

One tribal councilor, Harry Roy Red Eagle, said the tribe will invest in new roads and security at the 20-acre site before the casino's completion next May.

"We're not here to take the money and run," Red Eagle said.

Jim Fram, the Bartlesville Chamber of Commerce's CEO, said the tribe has city officials' support.

"We consider tourism a major part of our economic development," he said.

Red Eagle sees the same potential: "The feasibility studies were very encouraging," he said.

The casino will cost about $11 million and will bring about 200 jobs to the area, officials said.

The newest Million Dollar Elm Casino will operate 24 hours a day and feature more than 600 gaming machines, a restaurant and bar and parking for more than 700 cars.

The tribe worked to develop a Bartlesville casino for years. To solidify the deal, the tribe entered into a 25-year lease with the Allen family of Pawhuska and Hominy.

The Allens' allotment property came with restricted land status, making it a prime choice for the tribe's plans, Red Eagle said.

Land must have trust status to be eligible for Indian gaming, according to National Indian Gaming Commission regulations.

By leasing property that already had trust status, much time was saved by the tribe for development, Red Eagle said.

Joey Allen, an Osage tribal member, shareholder and landowner, said the family's plans involved offering their property to several development companies for gaming.

It was after several deals fell through that the Osage Nation stepped forward and offered to lease the land.

The tribe operates casinos in Hominy, Pawhuska, Sand Springs and north Tulsa.


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