More amenities eyed for new tribal casino in Monona County

ONAWA, Iowa | The Omaha Tribe christened its new Blackbird Bend Casino on Friday and previewed plans to expand the $12 million gaming and entertainment complex in rural Monona County.

Over the next several years, the tribe hopes to build more amenities, including a hotel, a bowling alley, a marina and even an 18-hole golf course, Blackbird Bend CEO Kurt Schmidt said.

«We have mid-range and long-term plans that will develop Blackbird Bend into a true destination resort that will attract visitors from all over the Midwest,” Schmidt told guests who attended a ribbon-cutting ceremony. “Today we celebrate the first step of that long journey.”

Local leaders from the nearby city of Onawa joined in the celebration. A Robert De Niro impersonator entertained guests.

The new casino was built next to the former Casino Omaha, which had been shut down by the historic summerlong flooding along the Missouri River in 2011. The casino reopened early last year in a portion of the old casino building that formerly served as the restaurant.

The new structure sits 6 feet higher than the old building to prevent future flooding of the facility. The larger casino floor allowed the tribe to add live table games, including blackjack, poker, craps and roulette, as well as hundreds of slot machines.

The casino opening also marks the return of a full-service restaurant, bar and gift shop. The restaurant, called the Upstream Café, serves a la carte and buffet meals.

The new Blackbird Bend Casino also will offer free live entertainment on a regular basis.

The larger casino created 144 more jobs, raising the total employment to around 200.

«It’s good to put some people back to work,» Schmidt said.

By late April or early May, casino managers plan to open a new bingo hall in the old casino. The adjacent Blackbird Bend Speedway, a stock car race track that has been shuttered for several years, also is expected to reopen in late spring or early summer, Schmidt said.

The tribe, headquartered in Macy, Neb., began a Las Vegas-style casino in 1992 on its reservation land on the Iowa side of the Missouri River, about five miles northwest of Onawa.

Blackbird Bend is the name of the land near where the casino operates.

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