Hayden casino proponents not backing down

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— Gov. John Hickenlooper may not like the idea, but the Sleeping Giant Group is proceeding with its plans to build an off-reservation casino near Yampa Valley Regional Airport.

Sleeping Giant Group's Steve Hofman said Friday that the group has stuck to its timeline, including beginning conversations this fall with Indian tribal representatives who might want to own the casino.

“We have a sense that there is some real interest in what this market represents and what we have done so far on the project,” said Hofman, a Steamboat Springs resident.

Hofman would not say how many tribes are participating in the conversations or how those conversations have taken place.

The Sleeping Giant Group has made one noticeable change to its strategy since Hickenlooper's administration said outright earlier this year that it wouldn't support any new casinos in Colorado. After holding community informational meetings in Hayden, Steamboat and Craig, the Sleeping Giant Group had planned to hire a firm that would be tasked with talking with interested Indian tribes. Instead, that outreach is being done by the development group itself.

“We haven’t had the need to hire the type of representation that we thought would be necessary,” Hofman said.

In addition to talking directly with tribes, Hofman said, the partners in the Sleeping Giant Group are meeting weekly and have busy agendas. During the second week of December, Hofman said he is going to Washington, D.C., and will visit with law firms that specialize in preparing the paperwork necessary for federal gaming approvals.

The next couple of months are crucial for the project, Hofman said, and the next step is to identify a tribe that wants to work with the Sleeping Giant Group.

“Either we’ll hit a brick wall or we’ll have success,” Hofman said.

After a tribe is identified, the group would work with that tribe in the costly process of preparing an application and submitting it to federal regulators.

Colorado’s governor ultimately would have to sign off on the project. And as they made clear in September, neither Hickenlooper nor Lt. Gov. Joe Garcia are fans.

“We thought it would be fair to those tribes and those business interests that were talking about it ... if we give them some advance notification of where we are so they could keep that in mind as they are investing money into studies and finding partners and looking at locations. We thought it would be in their best interest if we let them know ahead of time how we felt,” Garcia said in a September telephone interview with the Steamboat Today.

Members of the Sleeping Giant Group as well as some local officials thought the Hickenlooper administration's position was premature, but Hofman does not think it killed the project.

“I don’t think that message is one that has been well received,” Hofman said.

By the time a governor's approval of an off-reservation casino in Hayden would be needed, Colorado could have a different governor, or Hickenlooper could have a change of heart.

“Bear in mind what the governor and lieutenant governor said was 'at this time,'" Hofman said.

If Hickenlooper came to Hayden, Hayden town council member Bill Hayden said Saturday that he would tell the governor that he was wrong and that his opinion on the casino project was premature.

“The people in Hayden are generally very supportive,” said Hayden, adding that he is happy the Sleeping Giant Group is moving forward with its plans.

To reach Matt Stensland, call 970-871-4247 or email mstensland@SteamboatToday.com

Comments

David Moore 2 years ago

Is there some way to put this to a vote? Contrary to this groups belief, there is a large amount of people very much against this, a vote would solidify it one way or the other. There must be something else a bit more valley compatible that these people could spend the money burning a hole in their pocket on, IMO, a casino just is not the right fit for this area. I just hope the Gov stands by his feeling and remains a "non-fan".

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Brian Kotowski 2 years ago

Talk about a slippery slope. I'm sure there are equally large numbers of people who are "very much against" bars, liquor stores, mj dispensaries, junkyards, guided hunts & Jehovah's Witnesses. Subjecting the private enterprises you find objectionable to a public vote won't happen here, and it shouldn't.

I'm skeptical that a casino could succeed, but my hat's off to the Sleeping Giant Group putting their money where their mouth is.

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David Moore 2 years ago

OK...just asking. I will just resort to hoping the Gov keeps his word.

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John St Pierre 2 years ago

Does anyone think for a moment that Blackhawk (Ameristar or Isle of Capri) will sit on the side lines and allow anything to threaten their lock on the state. Allowing another casino outside of the existing venues would open a padora's box as far they are concerned and they can spend $20 for every dollar the local boys can spend to stop it...... Last week the story was Hayden trying to figure out how to get sufficient water to supply the airport... now Hayden is saying they support a casino complex next to it???? Guess the payoff they think is the casino paying for the upgrades??? Well it is the christmas season and everyone is entitled their wish list....

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Richard Hagins 2 years ago

The Mayor and a Councilman's opinions on the casino doesn't make that Hayden supports it, there are 5 other council members that have a say in it also.Until the Town Council has this issue presented to us in a public meeting and the citizens of Hayden have spoken will there be a decision on the casino. Everyone outside of Hayden and West Routt can have their opinions, but in the end it is up to them and Council to decide on a casino, before it even goes to the Governor.

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