The WinnaVegas Casino and Resort located in the rural city of Sloan, Iowa celebrated its 25th anniversary with a grand gala event earlier this month. The casino which is owned and operated by a Native American tribe called the Winnebago Tribe of Nebraska and had a modest start over two decades ago from two mobile trailers and a few prefabricated units.
Since then the WinnaVegas casino has made significant steps towards expansion and establishing itself as one of the popular gaming destinations in the state. The casino now touts a 55,000-square- foot gambling floor along with several other amenities including a hotel, a 1,500 seat entertainment venue and a 300 seat conference center, apart from restaurants.
In a statement, Frank White Chairman Winnebago Tribal Council said
We’ve accomplished a lot in 25 years, and, we’ve actually accomplished a lot in five years. This is only an example of what this nation can do — the Winnebago Tribe and the Ho-Chunk people — and it’s only going to get better.
Founder Vince Bass had proposed developing a casino 27 years ago as a means to help the tribe which was struggling financially. Bass who had just been elected to the Winnebago Tribal Council for the first time was appointed to a newly set up gaming commission along with four other members of the tribe.
Bass who is now the vice chair of the tribal council was proud of what the casino had accomplished over the years. Recalling the early days, Bass said that the commission had no knowledge of gaming and so they had to visit Minnesota and Wisconsin where Indian casinos were in existence and learn how to develop a successful establishment.
Bass was particularly struck by the Mystic Lake Casino Hotel near the Twin Cities in Minnesota and decided to use it as a model for Winnebago’s casino project. Mystic Lake and the other established tribal casinos worked with the Bass’ team to develop necessary blueprints and documents like standard operating procedures to help the process of starting a casino.
The casino project got its approval from federal authorities in a span of 18 months, surprising observers. Initially the casino had an outside team to handle the day-to- day management of the casino but soon the tribe took over.
Over the years the casino has expanded its facilities and has remained a popular destination despite newer gaming properties opening in Council Bluffs and Sioux City. So far the tribe has spent nearly $60 million on renovations and expansions to the casino. Bass said that further developments were being planned.