Yankton city leaders looking into building a casino

Published: Mar. 27, 2017 at 10:31 PM CDT
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Yankton city leaders are looking to cash in on what some are calling a big win for the future of the community.

Officials recently announced to the public they are working on preliminary plans to build a casino and entertainment center in downtown near the waterfront.

A committee working to make this idea a reality says the entertainment center would help the community tackle three major issues: work force development, historic preservation, and improving quality of life.

“Yankton is in need of game changers,” city manager Amy Nelson said.

Yankton has a lot of competition.

“I think the challenge is we need to compete with Omaha, Lincoln and Minneapolis,” Senator Bernie Hunhoff said.

The city is working to address a need for an increased workforce.

“Just employers alone tell us they need an additional 500 for the next several years. That’s a big number for a town our size” Hunhoff explained.

Leaders are also hoping create a higher revenue stream.

To accomplish these goals a committee is proposing Port Yankton which Hunhoff says would put the town on the map in two ways.

Its business model is a standalone idea.

“We want to model Deadwood when it comes to historic preservation, but we'd be a very different model than Deadwood or than most casinos in other parts of the country. We want one license, we want it held by a nonprofit,” Hunhoff stated.

The money would then be funneled back into the city to pay for quality of life improvements.

“Historic preservation would be a big part of that, but also quality of life improvements could be anything from, you know, other tourism improvements, riverboats some people have asked for, to libraries or children museums,” Hunhoff elaborated.

Preliminary renderings show the casino at the corner of Second and Capitol at the Gurney building.

“We would like to focus on the historic downtown and focus on the river front, that's what we're known for, that's our identity,” Nelson said.

City leaders don’t want people to think all Port Yankton will be is a casino.

“It’s not just a gaming facility, it’s also an entertainment facility and probably. Even more so an entertainment facility combining things like musical performances, and convention space, and some things like that,” Nelson said.

The new entertainment center could also blaze the trail for utilizing the river by creating a boardwalk reaching from downtown to the waterfront.

“Which would directly connect not only Port Yankton, but that building it would connect it directly to the Missouri River which something I don't think the state has quite yet,” Downtown Development Coordinator Mollie Grey explained.

It would take a statewide vote to approve Yankton’s gaming license for this downtown business.

About two decades ago voters got on board with the same issue that help lead the way for Deadwood to become what it is today.

City officials estimate the casino would cost anywhere from $35 million to $50 million to build and would generate three to four million dollars annually in gaming tax revenue.