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Meskwakis oppose another casino in Tama County

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April 28, 2010

The Meskwaki Indian Tribe is opposing plans by Signature Management Inc. to open a privately operated gambling facility in Tama County.

In 2006 the Meskwaki Tribal Council spent $111 million on a hotel-casino expansion. They are now feeling the effects of the recession as stated in a letter to the Iowa Racing and gaming Commission.

"Many people in the industry are concerned that Iowa has reached the saturation point and we run the risk of hurting existing facilities by setting up casinos that will start out at a competitive disadvantage due to shaky financing or the inability to provide amenities and entertainment to compete in the long run," the tribe said.

The tribe feels another casino could impact the existing Meskwaki casino as well as the Isle Casino in Waterloo.

Sioux City based Signature Management Inc. petitioned state regulators for a casino license. The new privately operated facility would be constructed along the U.S. Highway 30 bypass around Tama-Toledo.

The new venue would consist of a $40 million gambling complex, including a 90-room hotel, a restaurant, 500-seat conference center. The grounds would include an RV park, ATV-park, as well as an outdoor amphitheater. If approved, it will be known as the Prairie Hills Resort, Hotel and Casino.

Signature Management President John Pavone said Tuesday he was disappointed with the tribe's letter, "but we certainly still intend to extend the olive branch to the Meskwakis."

Pavone had previously told state regulators he believed there was plenty of room for growth in the Tama County area's casino market. He said Tuesday he still looked forward to working with the tribe.

"We certainly understand their concerns and their fears. But we still believe, as has been indicated by all the feasibility studies that have been done, that a cooperative effort will drive more bodies to the Tama area and will be a win for everyone," Pavone said.

With 984 employees the Meskwaki casino is the largest employer in Tama County and one of the largest gambling operations in the state.

Jack Ketterer, administrator of the Iowa Racing and Gaming Commission, declined Tuesday to speculate what impact the tribe's stance could have on Signature Management's efforts to obtain a casino license. The commission is scheduled to make decisions on awarding casino licenses May 13 in Johnston.

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