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Fort Hall’s big casino

Tribal casinos around the Northwest are a varied lot. Some of them are large scale operations, smaller than a large Vegas casino but still big enough to support large hotels (the Grand Ronde, the Coeur d’Alene, among others). But some of them are small-scale operations, like the little (and barely remembered) casino at Burns.

Fort Hall in eastern Idaho, between Pocatello and Idaho Falls (close to 200,000 people live within 50 miles or so), is on the smaller side, its casino near the reservation’s main community focusing principally on bingo. You have to figure tribal leaders have been thinking expansion for some time. Apart from the nearby population base, there’s solid road transport (it’s near the merger of Interstates 86 and 15), and the nearest sizable casinos are about 150 miles away, at Jackpot, Nevada. If it became more of a destination point, it could draw strong Utah traffic.

The tribe said today that it plans a major expansion of just that sort – an 80-acre resort including a hotel with 200 rooms (which will make it one of the largest in eastern Idaho), a golf course, a water park (out in the desert) and more. Work on it is expected to begin in a few months. (Since this is all happening on reservation land, regulatory hurdles should be minor.)

This may be on the short list of big stories of the year for eastern Idaho. It could change the dynamic of the reservation and its relationship with the communities in the area.

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