Tribes from Nebraska and South Dakota unite to oppose Port Yankton

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PIERRE, S.D. - Several tribes from South Dakota and one from Nebraska have united to oppose plans for a resort and casino in Yankton.
They held a press conference Thursday in Pierre to express their concerns.

While the nonprofit Yankton Area Progressive Growth says Port Yankton could be great for southeast South Dakota, the tribes see it differently.

They say it's a roll of the dice that could have a negative outcome for tribes in the tristate area.
Four tribes and even the Deadwood Gaming Association are speaking out against Port Yankton.

They are critical of the way Yankton is asking for a vote from the legislature to put a constitutional amendment on the ballot instead of gathering 27,000 signatures.
That's what Deadwood had to do and they worry this could be the beginning of a trend.

“It would not be good for me to be talking if I didn't point out the fact that this is one the very few times that multiple tribes have come together and shared their resources to fight something with possibly the exception of the Dakota Access Pipeline. It's that important,” Flandreau Santee Sioux Tribe executive councilor David Kills A Hundred said.

Tribal casinos provide hundreds of jobs across South Dakota.

“Our community would die without a casino. We're the largest employer in Charles Mix County,” Yankton Sioux Tribe Vice Chairman Jason Cooke said.
Deadwood employs more than 1000 people.

“According to a study commissioned this Fall for the Iowa Racing and Gaming Commission, it showed that additional gaming facilities in that state would have a cannibalization effect on existing operations. Yankton should show that that won’t be the case here in South Dakota,” Deadwood Gaming Association executive director Mike Rodman said.

There are 11 casinos within a 90 mile radius of Yankton.
The group says the market is already saturated.

“A good share of our business is going to come from the south and from the east and not affect the South Dakota tribal casinos. You know, I personally love the tribal casinos I’ve seen what they've done for economic development, and the last thing that we want to do is hurt them, and I don't think this will hurt them,” Port Yankton project leader Bernie Hunhoff said.

But the coalition also includes the Santee Sioux Nation tribe from Nebraska, which operates the Ohiya. That casino is only 50 miles away from Yankton.

“And it will certainly bring economic harm to the Santee Sioux Nation, the Ohiya casino, the employees there,” Thelma Thomas, Ohiya general manager said.

They are asking for Port Yankton leaders to sit down with the tribes and talk about how they could find a solution.
Even though Yankton is among the top ten largest cities in South Dakota it is having a hard time attracting tourism.
It doesn't sit off of a major interstate like most larger cities.

Hunhoff says the project would help provide growth to the area by attracting visitors and even new residents.