News of Riverton, Lander and Fremont County, Wyoming, from the Ranger's award winning journalists.
Shoshones describe big plan to grow casino site
May 15, 2013 - By Alejandra Silva, Staff Writer
More than 70 proposals to build the planned $38 million Shoshone Rose Casino expansion have been submitted as the tribe looks to upgrade its gaming facility near Lander.
Shoshone Business Council member Wes Martel said licensed architectural firms, engineers and general contractors were asked to enter their proposals on the 165,000 square-foot casino expansion.
Plans specify an indoor water park, 100 hotel rooms, a convention center or entertainment facility to seat about 750 people, and a casino floor that would fit roughly 700 slot gaming devices and table games.
As many as three restaurants also would be included, with one of them possibly selling alcohol.
Other possibilities include a coffee shop, a buffet, an upscale steakhouse, and a gift shop or other type of retail area.
Any firm selected would have to comply with the Shoshone and Arapaho TERO ordinance and employ tribal members.
Martel said Consolidated Casino Management carried out several Indian gaming feasibility studies in a span of a few months to estimate the success of an expansion.
"When (they) ran the numbers, everything we need is in place to secure the financing and get the revenue to pay off the loan," Martel said. "We don't want to get into a project where we won't be able to pay off our loans."
The analysts also took into consideration the people who travel to the casinos from within the state and the people who visit from other states.
"The entire state is part of our market," he said. "The feasibility study they performed indicates that we got the revenue and the market to pay this back."
Martel said the council has been visiting other tribes and their casinos, including one in Minnesota that works under the desired 2:1 revenue ratio.
"You got to have twice the amount of revenue coming in to pay off the loan, and this feasibility study assures us that we do have that," Martel said.
Comparisons to the Wind River Hotel and Casino just outside Riverton-- which has 750 slot machines, a hotel, two 24-hour restaurants and two gift shops -- will be evident, but Martel said upgrading the Shoshone Rose with "world class facilities" will not only improve the casino, but it also will provide more jobs and opportunities for the Eastern Shoshone tribe.
"You just kind of got to stay one step ahead of your competition," he said.
About 125 people are employed currently at the casino, and the expansion could 250 to 300 more, Martel predicted.
"To me, that's a real important part of this," he said. "When this facility is complete, we want to have good training programs and mentoring programs."
Martel said the casino hopes to assist tribal members financially so they can complete their education in a field where they can then return to the casino and lead in a department relating to their degree.
Martel said they would "set the bar high" for the required experience and education to continue encouraging tribal members to further their education for the benefit of their community.
A year away
A tentative opening date is set for June 2014. Martel said the cost of building materials adds urgency to the job.
"The longer we wait, the more expensive it will get," he said.
Martel said the casino's marketing strategy will look into promoting the expansion's bigger, "flashier" facilities and other amenities not currently available in the region.
Because the nearest water parks are located in Thermopolis, Casper and Billings, Mont., Martel said creating one in Fremont County would create a more family-friendly facility for residents.
Council members have traveled to other reservations and casinos in other states, and Martel said they realized that water parks are popular elsewhere but are not common in Wyoming.
The casino's new multi-use convention center would be the new location for sports tournaments, conferences, meetings and other special events, he said.
The planning and designing team includes Shoshone Rose Casino general manager Brian VanEnkenvoort and HKM Engineering, which helped produce the conceptual design, existing land and infrastructure, cost estimates and sewer and water line capabilities.
Martel said a "state of the art ventilation system" will carry out cigarette smoke to create a "smoke-free casino."
Current tribal law prohibits the sale of alcohol on the Wind River Indian Reservation, but Martel said the council would bring forward a special election to allow tribal members to decide on the sale of alcohol at the casino.
"We're thinking of having a referendum on that just to make sure that we get a vote of the people to support us having a liquor ordinance," he said. "We do hear from a few people that think we should not serve liquor out there, but any world-class facility and restaurant has the ability to sell liquor.
"That is part of the marketing. It's part of your business and part of your revenue stream, so you look at the big picture of hotel, restaurant, water park, event center and alcohol sale," he said.
Martel said the casino hopes to turn the current Shoshone Rose casino into a cultural center, gas station or gift shop in the future and place a golf course and rodeo arena adjacent to the casino as well.
"This is one of the most exciting projects I've worked on as member of the council," Martel said. "I think it's a real opportunity for us, the Shoshone tribe. We're going to set the standard for gaming in this part of the country."