Star Lake Casino Bid Ends after 3 Years and $7m Spent

Minneapolis downtown skyline in Minnesota, USA at sunset

It can be frustrating for all parties when a project comes close to fruition only to be closed. There were extensive plans to create a casino resort on Star Lake in Minnesota. However, after three years and more than $7m (£5.4m) invested in the project, it appears to be dead in the water.

Background of the project

In September 2015, the White Earth Nation announced plans to create the Shooting Star Casino and Resort. It was to be built using 14.7 acres of designated trust land on the eastern side of the Maplewood State Park, which is not far from Pelicans Rapids.

The tribe planned to have the resort up and running by 2017. It purchased more than 270 acres of land adjacent to the primary site to be used for the various elements of the development, as well as for parking and transportation access.

Along with the gambling center, there would have been a hotel with 180 rooms, a restaurant and bar, large conference area, indoor and outdoor swimming pools, spa, entertainment area, facilities for RVs, and more than 840 slot machines.

There was a lot of opposition to this proposed project as soon as the plans were made public. Star Lake is one of the biggest lakes in the area, and it is a popular destination throughout the year, but especially during the summer.

The Star Lake Concerned Citizens Group (SLCCG) was created. It was made up of those who owned property in the area and were concerned by the increased levels of traffic that would lead to the wetlands and compromise this rural area. They staunchly opposed any plans to build a casino resort in the area.

The White Earth Nation operates two other gambling centers, in Bagley and Mahnomen, Minnesota.

What is the current status?

Otter Tail County decided in August 2017 to have the casino proposal subjected to a complete environmental impact statement.

After that decision, it was nearly an entire year before anything else was heard about this matter. The permit for the project had been withdrawn and it and it looked as if the tribe was waiting for an important election in June 2018 to decide what approach to take.

As a result of the election, a new secretary-treasurer and representative took office at the White Earth Reservation. As a result, the casino project being put on hold while the newly elected officials looked at the budget to see if the tribe had the resources needed to continue with the project.

It is believed that those who were newly elected had previously been opposed to the idea of the Star Lake Casino.

The project was officially closed at the end of August after three years following a vote by the White Earth tribal council. Facing so much local opposition, as well as internal opposition to the plans, it may have been doomed from the start.

Many members of the tribe had been concerned about the environmental impact of a project on the surrounding lands and on the lake itself. There have also been recent indications that Native American tribes are seeing decreasing gambling revenues.

This could be because of sports betting legalization and the fact that many other states have softened their gambling laws, allowing non-tribal operators to enter into the space, which often ends tribal monopolies. This proposed new casino could have ruined the tribe financially if it was not successful.

The tribe has already spent more than $7m (£5.4m) on this project. The money was used for buying land and for the various fees associated with planning and protecting the region’s environment.

While some may see this as a massive waste of money, the tribe might have gone on to sink tens of millions of dollars in the casino resort without being guaranteed success.