An artist's rendering of the exterior of Ho-Chunk Inc.'s proposed Warrior Casino & Hotel in downtown Sioux City, Iowa

Winnebago Tribe Competes for Iowa Commercial Casino


Ho-Chunk Inc., the Winnebago Tribe's economic development corporation, has submitted a bid to build a $122.3 million commercial casino and hotel in downtown Sioux City, Iowa.

The tribe is among three groups vying for the Iowa Racing and Gaming Commission's (IRGC) Woodbury County gambling license. On November 15, Ho-Chunk, along with Sioux City Entertainment (SCE) and Penn National Gaming, provided proof they have the financial means to realize their proposed casinos, reported

Names were drawn, and Ho-Chunk presented first. The corporation has secured $152.3 million in funding for its planned Warrior Casino and Hotel, including a $20 million investment from the Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux Community (SMSC) of Minnesota, which Ho-Chunk CEO Lance Morgan called "probably one of the most successful gaming tribes in the country." The SMSC operates Mystic Lake Casino in Minneapolis; the tribe has also agreed to provide a $9 million bridge loan for the proposed Iowa casino.

Ho-Chunk cited other investors as well as plans to use city tax increment financing for $25 million and debt financing for $58 million.

The extra $30 million in contingency funding stood to bolster the tribe's pitch. "We wanted to show up here with no holes in this project," CEO Lance Morgan told the commission, The Sioux City Journal reported. "We wanted to make sure you knew that we had more than enough resources for this project."

The SCE, the developer of the proposed Hard Rock Hotel & Casino, along with the nonprofit gaming group Missouri River Historical Development, has identified as much as $138.5 million in funding through a mix of private and public financing for its $118.5 million project. Additional funds will provide "the opportunity to continue to grow, as we open the project, see what the demand is, and reinvest in the project, as opposed to having to stay static with the first phase of the project," SCE President Bill Warner said.

The third contender, Wyomissing, Pennsylvania-based Penn National Gaming, the nation's second-largest gaming operator, is proposing two casino options at more than $160 million each.

"Penn National requires no financing to move forward with our proposals and can fund either of these projects with cash flow from existing operations," Penn chairman and CEO Peter Carlino said in a statement.

IRGC Chairman Jeff Lamberti said all three groups "met that minimum threshold."

In January, the groups will make 45-minute detailed presentations on their proposals to the IRGC, and the commission will decide which company will receive the gaming license on April 18.


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