Eastern Shoshone tribe opens its first casino

Lander, Wyoming (AP) 9-07

The Eastern Shoshone Tribe has opened its first casino, the first of two Vegas-style gaming halls the tribe plans to build on the Wind River Indian Reservation.

Around 500 tribal members, area residents and tourists turned out Monday for the opening day festivities, including free plates of hamburgers and potato salad, and to try their hand at the Class III gambling machines.

The 7,000-square-foot Shoshone Rose Casino near Lander opened with about 100 slot machines. Another 50 will be installed soon, including 40 in a separate nonsmoking wing, said casino Controller Brian VanEnkenvoort.

The casino, while employing about 75 full-time workers, also features a self-serve restaurant and free coffee and sodas. It is located about five miles north of Lander on Wyoming Highway 287.

Operating hours initially will run from 10 a.m. to 2 a.m. and will later be expanded to meet demand.

“We’ll let customers tell us what our hours are in the future,” VanEnkenvoort said.

One of the first customers Monday was Keith Burnfield, a resident of Columbus, Ohio, who happened on the casino during a road trip to Yellowstone National Park with a friend from Denver.

“We were entering a reservation and (my friend) said, ‘There must be a casino.’ A minute later, there it was,” Burnfield said.

Dalene Pogoree of Fort Washakie, a stay-at-home mom who lives nearby, said she was surprised by the small size of the casino, but happy to see it finally open. Pogoree didn’t have much luck at the slot machines, losing all of the $10 she brought with her.

“I only had 10 dollars, but if I had more I’m pretty sure I should have hit something,” Pogoree said.

The Shoshone tribe has plans for another larger casino about eight miles north of Riverton on State Highway 789. It is negotiating to buy the land.

The Northern Arapaho Tribe operates the Wind River Casino near Riverton, which also offers Vegas-style gaming, including table games such as blackjack. The new Shoshone casino does not have table games.

The Arapahos also own a smaller casino near Ethete, and have plans to open a 40,000-square-foot casino just south of Riverton in the coming months.

Information from: Star-Tribune, http://www.casperstartribune.net