As the Prairie Band Casino and Resort celebrated its 20th anniversary Friday night, Prairie Band Potawatomi Nation chairwoman Liana Onnen highlighted the impact the casino has had on the local community.
“Twenty years ago, if you looked around, there weren’t a lot of things on the reservation. There weren’t a lot of businesses there, weren’t a lot of paved roads, there weren’t a lot of jobs in this area,” Onnen said. “And 20 years later, here we are — the jobs are thriving, the casino is thriving and the community is thriving as a result.”
Onnen, alongside tribe elders and employees of the casino, commemorated the occasion with a small ceremony on Friday — the official anniversary is Saturday. In its 20-year existence, the casino has impacted both the tribal community and northeast Kansas through job creation, contracting through local businesses and charitable giving.
The casino, which has grown to include a steakhouse, hotels, and a golf course, employs between 700 and 1,000 people per year, according to John Tuckwin, director of marketing — many of whom are from Topeka.
“The payroll is tens of millions of dollars every year, and a lot of that money gets spent right here in Topeka,” Tuckwin said.
The tribe has especially benefited financially from the casino, because it provides employment opportunities for tribal members on the reservation.
“Being an economic driver in the area in jobs has really made a big difference in, I think, the quality of life of many people,” Onnen said. “To not have to drive 30 miles, 40 miles to get to work … it’s less money in your tank, it’s less wear and tear on your car and it gives you a sense of community.”
In addition to job creation, the tribe has given $10 million in the past two decades to local charities. There is a special focus on charities that help children and the elderly.
“It’s important to be able to give back to the community, to be able to be a part of growing a community,” Onnen said. “I think, as native people, it’s very important to us.”
Much of the revenue from the casino goes back to helping the same tribal community that started and currently runs the casino. It has been used to build fire and police stations, according to a news release from the casino. Onnen said that the money that goes to the casino immediately helps the tribe, but also the larger community, through taxes, jobs and contractors.
“We do all this for the tribe and for the northeast Kansas economy,” Tuckwin said.
The casino doesn’t have definite plans for the future, but Onnen said they hope to continue leaving a positive economic impact on the tribal community and northeast Kansas.
“The most important thing we want to do is continue economic development,” Onnen said. “The more businesses we can grow and support here, the better it is for us and the better it is for Jackson County.”