By Joe Hadsall
SENECA, Mo. —
John Ervin said that officials at Bordertown Casino have wanted to add a hotel and other amenities for at least 10 years.
But the problem was spelled out in the casino’s name: borders. And not just the Missouri-Oklahoma state line.
“The building at Bordertown has served us well, but it’s aging, and it’s landlocked,” Ervin said Friday night. “We couldn’t expand our parking or building. We were locked in.”
In the next few days, the casino will get its chance to stretch out at a new site with a new name. Called Indigo Sky Casino, the $85 million operation features a bigger gaming floor, a hotel, an RV park and several restaurants, said Ervin, the casino’s assistant general manager.
Sometime over the next few days, Bordertown will shut its doors, and staff will start working at the new casino, located about a mile west of the intersection of highways 60 and 43. Ervin said an official opening date has not been set.
Ervin said Bordertown had a $60 million impact on the local economy last year. But Seneca city officials don’t forecast extra growth to match the casino’s expansion.
The casino will use the city’s wastewater service, generating extra revenue in service fees to the city. But Cecil Vance, mayor pro tem, believes that the casino will keep potential customers on site throughout their visit.
“People will likely eat at the restaurants there,” Vance said. “They may buy some stuff from town, but not a lot. It will also change our traffic flow, so that might become an issue. We’ll have to wait and see.”
Ervin said the casino required more employees. About 300 new positions were opened, bringing the casino’s total work force to about 700. Ervin said that all of Bordertown’s employees were retained.
Owned and operated by the Eastern Shawnee Tribe, Bordertown has been open since 1987, and started as a bingo hall. Profits from the casino go to tribal programs such as educational programs and assistance for the elderly, Ervin said.
As for the Bordertown building, tribe officials don’t want it to remain vacant.
Larry Kropp, first counsel on the tribe’s business committee, said that options include transforming the building into a training center, call center, educational center or even a small manufacturing plant. Whatever the tribe decides, Kropp estimates repurposing the building within a year.
“A building like that would cost us too much to heat and cool, even when vacant,” Kropp said. “It’s too valuable. We want to do something that will promote growth for the tribe and the community.”
Indigo Sky will include everything currently offered at Bordertown, including off-track betting and its popular bingo games. Standard, Las Vegas-style table games will be offered, including blackjack and poker variants.
New features include an expanded 45,000-square-foot gaming floor, a 117-room hotel offering 19 suites, more dining options and a redesigned, upscale decor. The casino was built by Redstone Construction, of Little Rock, Ark.
Ervin said brightening the main floor was a main goal. The Echo Bar features a large, blue chandelier arranged in the shape of an earring on a painting in the casino’s office.
Original plans called for a more subdued design, Ervin said, but the casino’s manager, Jerry West, was able to sell a vision of an upgraded style to the tribe.
“In the local market, there’s a basic feel of what casinos are supposed to be,” Ervin said. “A big room with a flat ceiling, kind of dark. We wanted to turn that on its ear with a throwback to early Vegas. We’re proud of this building, and want to show off its details.”
Expanded dining options include a new restaurant, named Shawanoe, that features Southwest flavors. Other options include three restaurants in the Three Sisters Food court, including a 24-hour Woodland Grill, fresh deli-style sandwiches at the Ridge Cafe, and pizza and pasta at Stone Valley Pizza.
The casino’s 540-seat bingo room has been expanded to include smoking and nonsmoking sections, and a fifth restaurant. Off-track betting and Texas hold ’em will be offered in a separate room.
The hotel also features an outdoor heated pool with a waterfall feature and cabanas. A 44-slot RV park includes a large pavilion with two barbecue pits, showers, laundry and walking trails.
The casino’s emphasis on upper-scale amenities is similar to Downstream Casino, which opened in 2008. Operated by the Quapaw Tribe, Downstream is located near the borders of Missouri, Oklahoma and Kansas.
Ervin said the casino is not trying to compete with Downstream, however. Combined with Grand Lake, Ervin said, the area could become a bigger destination for tourists.
“This is a business model that Vegas discovered,” Ervin said. “The market is not saturated. In Vegas, there are bigger casinos side by side. There is plenty of market space out there.”
Officials with Indigo Sky Casino have not announced an official opening date, but Assistant General Manager John Ervin said it should be sometime in the next few days. Once that day is set, Bordertown will close at midnight the day before and Indigo Sky will open 12 hours later at noon. A grand opening will be held in about a month, Ervin said.