Last week I wrote about a report from a tribal newspaper about a roughly $6 million hit the Prairie Knights Casino has taken in the wake of the often violent, often unlawful #NoDAPL protests against the Dakota Access Pipeline.
“Due to the DAPL protest, the tribe’s casino revenue is now under $9 million,” the paper reported.
There is “absolutely no doubt that the protests and the closing of the bridge…had a big impact,” LaRoy Kingsley, President of the KK Bold marketing company and a spokesman for the casino, told me during an interview today (audio below).
Kingsley said the tribe is under no obligation to release information about the casino’s finances, but didn’t dispute the Teton Times report, saying they had apparently heard some of the tribal members discussing those numbers at a public meeting.
He also named the slipping agriculture and energy economy in the state as well as some nasty weather as factors in the decline, but agreed that the protests didn’t help.
Many in south central North Dakota have organized social media efforts aimed at encouraging a boycott of the casino over the protests. “It’s something we discuss with them on a daily or weekly basis,” Kingsley told me of that situation, saying it has prompted a “heavier PR effort” from the casino in response.
So what message does the casino want to communicate to those alienated by the protests? “What a great corporate citizen Prairie Knights has been,” Kingsley told me. He said the casino strives to buy locally, contributing some $6.7 million to the Bismarck/Mandan economy in the last year.
He also pointed out that the tribal leadership, which had invited the protesters to North Dakota to oppose the pipeline, has now asked the protesters to leave.
“It’s like you invite your in-laws for Christmas…and a couple of weeks later they’re still there,” he said of that situation.
The tribe asked protesters to clean up the camps and go home back in December. As of today there are still 200-300 protesters on U.S. Army Corps of Engineers land with a deadline to leave looming on Wednesday, February 22nd. Some of the protesters are insisting they’ll stay in a soggy camp surrounded by mountains of trash.
Kingsley says the difficulty in traveling to the casino, along with concerns about the protesters themselves, may have deterred visitors to the casino in the short run but that he expects things will eventually get back to normal.
“As time goes on those resentment feelings will start to fade,” he told me.
I agree, and I’m not supportive of boycotting the casino. While I understand the feelings some have toward the tribe and their businesses after months of the #NoDAPL protesters terrorizing south central North Dakota, in the long run we all have to live together. The sooner we can get back to peaceful commerce the better.
And it’s worth remembering that boycotting Prairie Knights hurts the whole tribe, and not everybody in the tribe was on board with the #NoDAPL protests.