Havre Daily News
ROCKY BOY'S INDIAN RESERVATION - The Rocky Boy tribal council is moving ahead with plans to build a casino complex near U.S. Highway 87 near Laredo. Plans include a 350-machine casino, a 65-room hotel and, in a second phase of the project, a truck stop.
The tribe expects the casino to open by Jan. 1, a press release from the tribal council said. If a truck stop plaza proves feasible, it could be built by next year, the press release said.
A preliminary agreement with Maitland, Fla.-based gaming developer NORAM was completed today to finance the casino project, Paul Filzer, an attorney for the company, said this morning.
NORAM will fund the entire $18 million to $20 million project in a profit-sharing agreement, said Chippewa Cree Community Development Corp. interim finance manager Bob Swan, who is directing the project. Once that loan is paid, NORAM will turn the casino over to the tribal council unless the tribe decides to buy out NORAM sooner than that, he said.
The agreement between NORAM and the tribe specifies that the loan will be paid off in about seven years, Swan said.
The casino will sit a mile south of another proposed economic development project, a 160-acre site set aside for an ethanol plant, Robert "Sonny" Belcourt, director of the tribal Department of Natural Resources, said today. Belcourt's office handles zoning and planning for the reservation.
The tribe is seeking financing for the $87 million project, which would produce 40 million gallons of ethanol a year and create about 40 permanent jobs as well as about 200 construction jobs.
Belcourt said his office is working on zoning a second commercial area for the casino in a 78-acre industrial park. The truck plaza would be added to the same area if built, Belcourt said.
The casino project got a boost when a June feasibility study by consultant Klas Robinson of Minneapolis came back favorably for a casino with about 300 machines, Swan said.
"The tribe has been working on this for quite a while. This didn't fall out of the sky," he said.
The tribe has asked Robinson for a second study, already under way, to be completed during the annual Rocky Boy powwow, which runs Aug. 4-7. If the second study is favorable, Swan said, he expects the tribe to finalize an agreement with NORAM and send out bids to begin construction.
"It's going to be a boon for north-central Montana because we'll be using contractors throughout north-central Montana," Swan said.
The completed June feasibility study, which Swan would not make public, said the casino could draw people from a 200-mile radius, another factor that could be good for the region, Swan said.
"When you've got gamers coming in from a 200-mile radius, they'll need additional rooms, they'll want to go out to Havre to shop," he said. "It'll be a bonus for Havre."
Tribal council chairman John "Chance" Houle was elected to chairmanship in November 2004 and ran on a platform of accountability and economic development.
The council hosted an economic summit in Great Falls in April to preview some of the tribe's economic development projects.
"With all the cuts we're getting from the federal government, we really need to be creating our own revenue streams," Houle said in an interview at the time.
The tribe also organized the Chippewa Cree Community Development Corp., composed of council members and community members, to oversee some tribal projects, including the new Past Time gas station and smoke shop and updates to the Bear Paw Casino.
The tribe plans to include two types of machines in the new casino, as well as possibly adding off-track betting as well, the press release said.
The casino will include 300 electronic bingo machines.
The tribe recently added 20 such machines, Rocket Bingo machines, to the Bear Paw Casino. Those allow players to compete with competitors nationwide for up to $200,000.
The press release said the casino would also have 50 class III keno and poker machines.