Standing Rock casino hopes to win back gamblers scared off by protests

Prairie Knights Casino

At this point, the Standing Rock Sioux could use fewer Dakota Access pipeline protesters in the camps and more high-rollers at the reservation casino.

The tribe’s Prairie Knights Casino & Resort reportedly has taken a $6 million hit amid the turmoil stemming from the protests, thanks in part to agitators who blocked roads, forced the closure of the Backwater Bridge after setting it on fire and left tons of garbage in their wake.

LaRoy Kingsley, spokesman for the reservation casino in Yates, North Dakota, said this week that the venue has undertaken a public relations campaign to lure patrons put off by months of upheaval and clashes with law enforcement.

“There’s absolutely no doubt that the protests and the closing of the bridge have had a significant impact on people’s ability to get to the casino and just their comfort level driving down,” Mr. Kingsley told WDAY-AM host Rob Port.

At the same time, other factors have played a part in the casino’s run of bad luck, including the economy and the weather.

“Our ag economy kind of slipped there last fall, we had the energy industry really dialing down, and then we ran into one of the worst December-January two-month periods as far as weather goes in many, many years,” Mr. Kingsley said. “They’ve really kind of run into a perfect storm situation with all of those things coming together at the same time.”

The Teton Times, a tribal newspaper, reported last week that Prairie Knights revenue dropped from $14 million in 2015 to $8 million in 2016, a devastating shortfall for a tribe whose casino earnings represent the largest chunk of the budget and fund badly needed social programs.

The tribal council has stepped in with $3.2 million from its Dakota Access fundraising, but that’s “only going to get us so far,” tribal CFO Jerome Long Bottom told The Bismarck Tribune.

“It’s like it’s fallen off a cliff,” Mr. Long Bottom said. “When the bridge was shut off, the numbers just plummeted.”

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