Yankton Officials Trying To Cash In On Multi-Million Dollar Casino

YANKTON, S.D. – Business leaders on the southeast side of the state are betting on a big entertainment facility they believe could produce millions of dollars in revenue.

Yankton Area Progressive Growth is looking to build a 500 machine, 10 table casino in the heart of downtown.

But they say they’re going to need more than just a ‘lucky hand’ to get the project rolling.

“We just can’t stand pat, we’ve got to make some change

s,” says former District 18 senate representative Bernie Hunhoff. “We have to do something different if we’re going to really help towns like Yankton grow for the future.”

It’s a bit of a gamble, but Hunhoff told dozens at a One Million Cups meeting Wednesday morning that building a multi-million dollar entertainment center, with a casino being the engine behind it, is what the city of Yankton needs.

“We have the river and the lake and the history, and we need to find a way to capitalize on the assets that we have,” says Hunhoff.

Hunhoff and Yankton area Progressive Growth are leading this project.

They say it could help bring in more tourism, increase the population and drive up revenue.

“Gaming is not allowed without a constitutional amendment and so it’s hard to come by and it isn’t happening in very many places in South Dakota,” says Rob Stephenson, the non-profit’s board chairman.

But in order to get to the ground breaking, a lot would have to fall into place.

Voters would have to approve the casino during the 2018 November election.

Which means funding would be needed for a state-wide campaign.

And even if that happens, leaders would need to find out-of-state investors to ante up the $30- $50 million cost.

“It’s kind of like hitting a baseball,” says Hunhoff. “It’s not possible if you don’t swing. You got to give it a try.”

Many say they’re all in.

“Go big or go home,” says Michelle Leibfarth of Yankton. “You have to do something big. This is going to draw in young people and a community needs young people.”

While the project is in the very beginning stages, locals are excited for the potential of putting Yankton on the destination map.

The proposed casino would be smaller than the nearby Grand Falls casino in Iowa.

That facility has 750 machines and more than 20 tables.

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