(SOUTH SIOUX CITY, NE) - Ho-Chunk Inc. is taking another spin at building a new casino in the area. After losing a bid to build in Sioux City, Ho-Chunk has revealed plans to build a casino in South Sioux City.
On the edge of South Sioux City sits the old Horsemen's Atokad Downs. Ho-Chunk bought the property about a year ago. This plan for a new casino has been its backup if the Warrior Hotel and Casino fell through.
An empty field sits just past an empty building once filled with horse racing gamblers. But since Ho-Chunk Inc. bought the land it's drawn up plans to make it a thriving site once again. "Our focus and attention had been on the Warrior and we had no intention of doing Atokad if we had been awarded the license there, but we've always had it as a backup plan," said Ho-Chunk Inc. President and CEO Lance Morgan. Ho-Chunk will knock down the building and transform the site to a new casino and also an events center, possibly retail and restaurant space and an outdoor venue. "What we're going to push for is certainly a modern casino, but we're going to have some of the odes to the past. We're going to have some of the events that really appeal to the core person who loves the outdoors, horse activities, that sort of thing," said Morgan. Morgan said getting the casino up and running isn't a matter of if, but when. "A lot of Nebraska money has been bleeding over into Iowa for a very long time and that's become more and more of a sore spot in Nebraska legislature," said Morgan. He also said Atokad will definitely compete with Hard Rock. "We think from the Winnebago tribe's perspective that having two of the three casinos in the metro area - Winnavegas and Atokad - will help alleviate some of the financial hit that Winnavegas is scheduled to take from the Hard Rock," said Morgan. However, the plan is anything but a sure bet until it gets the green light from Lincoln. "We just need some help from the state legislature. And we might need a constitutional amendment," said Morgan. So Ho-Chunk is looking to the 2014 legislative session hoping the second time's the charm for a casino in Siouxland. "I really don't want to go through another contest," said Morgan.
Ho-chunk plans on spending $40 million on the Atokad casino site.