Omaha Tribe Shuts Down Casino Omaha Operations

The Omaha Indian tribe closed down Casino Omaha on June 30th, 2009, a tribal-owned gaming establishment near Onawa in the western portion of Iowa. Tribal officials stated that the suspension of gaming operation forced the layoffs of 185 casino staff, about ninety-five percent of whom are members of the Omaha tribe. The Omaha Indian tribe is based in Macy, Neb, but the casino facility is located on tribal land on the Iowa portion of the Missouri

The casino facility, which is about fifty miles north of Omaha-Council Bluffs near Interstate Highway 29, had experienced good business after its opening in 1992, averaging about 18,000 visitors a week. Jim Hunt, the Casino Omaha’s general manager said that it was severely affected when three casino facilities opened in the mid-1990’s in Council Bluffs and has struggled recently because of the global financial crisis.

The shutdown of the facility had been rumored for quite sometime, although tribal officials had denied it. Hunt stated that casino will reopen for business in the next few months after the gaming operation is improved. The casino facility will seek a partner to
help with capital movements. Hunt said that he is very optimistic that they will find a partner that will help them restructure.

Casino Omaha offers 430 slot machines and 8 casino table games. Hunt stated that the upgrade plans calls for placing ticket less gaming machines. Jack Ketterer, the administrator of the Iowa Racing and Gaming Commission said that this is only the 2nd time since the early 1990’s that Iowa had a casino facility closed down. The last casino facility to stop operations was the Catfish Bend riverboat in Fort Madison, which shutdown in 2007. But a land-based Catfish Bend casino facility remains open in Burlington.

The problems experienced by Casino Omaha could add to statewide talks over whether Iowa gaming regulators should allow more casino facilities. The Iowa Racing and Gaming Commission is expected to discuss the issue on July 16th, 2009.

Business leaders are seeking state casino gaming licenses in 5 communities, including the cities of Fort Dodge and Ottumwa and in Lyon, Tama and Franklin counties.

Casino Omaha is not handled by state officials and it does not publicly disclose its finances the way that the other regulated seventeen casinos in Iowa are required to file financial reports regularly. Ketterer stated that he expected those seventeen casino
facilities to finish the year with gross gaming revenues of $1.4 billion.