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Turtle Mountain Chippewa propose Grand Forks casino

GRAND FORKS, N.D. -- The Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa is proposing a casino and entertainment complex in Grand Forks, an idea that failed to win support or the necessary approval in the past.

The Finance and Development Committee of the Grand Forks City Council will discuss the proposal at its meeting Monday and could make a recommendation to the council.

According to information included with the committee meeting’s agenda, the tribe approved a resolution in October to seek approval for a “gaming, entertainment and hospitality complex” on land that would be acquired by the tribe.

Committee Chairman Dana Sande said he had already received calls from people with concerns about the proposal, but said council members should hear from its backers from the Turtle Mountain reservation before commenting its chances of success.

“I think there are probably lots of pros and cons for a casino in Grand Forks,” he said. “We should at least listen to what (tribal representatives) have to say.”

The complex would be located along the Interstate 29 corridor, according to meeting agenda information. Land acquired by the tribe would be held in trust by its members.

The Turtle Mountain tribe is based on the small Turtle Mountain Indian Reservation about 85 miles northwest of Devils Lake, near the Canadian border. A message left with an official at the reservation was not returned Friday.


The tribe’s proposal offers to pay for the expansion of infrastructure, compensate the city for lost property taxes on land taken into tribal trust and share revenue with charities.

The Turtle Mountain Band “is requesting to work with the City of Grand Forks in a spirit of cooperation and to form a cooperative working group to hold discussions in coordinated and mutually beneficial manner” on the proposal, according to the city staff’s report.

A city staff recommendation says the council members should “engage in a good faith dialogue and community conversation” with the tribe on the merits of the project.

Any recommendation from the committee would have to be approved by the full City Council.

A tribal casino operating off a reservation would require approval at several levels, including the federal Department of the Interior and the governor, according to information provided by city staff.

Before such a project could go ahead, it would also have to address financial viability, economic benefits, historic tribal connections to the off-reservation site of the casino, environmental effects, costs and other implications for nearby communities.

The tribe pushed for a Grand Forks casino in 2005 and 2006, but the effort lost to community opposition and lack of support on the city and state levels. The proposal was brought up again in 2009, but fizzled in part by not winning approval from then-Gov. John Hoeven.

Sande said he hoped to hear from casino supporters on what it would do for the city.

“There have to be benefits for the people of Grand Forks,” he said.

Christopher Bjorke

Christopher Bjorke is the content editor for the Grand Forks Herald. He first worked for the Herald in 1997 and most recently since 2011. His jobs at the Herald have included covering local government, state politics, business and economics, and the health care industry. 

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