New Wind River Casino Executives Announce Change in Direction Stemming from Northern Arapaho Leaders in Wyoming
Posted on: August 19, 2019, 03:07h.
Last updated on: August 19, 2019, 01:53h.
The new CEO of the Wind River Hotel and Casino announced some changes that are coming for the flagship property owned by Wyoming’s Northern Arapaho tribe.
In a tribal public meeting held earlier this month, Brian Van Enkenvoort told members that he will be following the direction laid out by the Northern Arapaho General Counsel.
Some of the things for the future is the casino will be moving from a job provider to a revenue producer,” Van Enkenvoort said. “So, there will be many changes that are going to be coming about from the casino side.”
David “Ron” McElroy, Wind River’s deputy CEO, said the financial situation seemed dire at the onset, and that he wasn’t sure if the casino would make the July 15 payroll due to purchases that were made in June. Payments were made for nearly $1.6 million in machines and system upgrades. They later found out some of the vendors would have given the casino zero-interest installment payments over a 12-month period.
“It just drained the accounts down to where it made it very difficult, this right off the get-go,” said McElroy. “I don’t know if that was planned or what. But we’re moving forward, and stuff’s slowly getting better.”
Improving Internal Controls
Van Enkenvoort also noticed that the organization chart was not efficient. For instance, the casino had no director-level positions. That means the CEO must deal with more than 25 direct reports, instead of five more-senior staff members who could be groomed for future executive positions, he said.
It also made for a lax environment with little internal control.
Glen Galt, a certified public accountant specializing in tribal accounting with Joseph Eve, said 17 casino employees had company credit cards. Those purchases, he said, did not go through a proper invoicing process to determine if they were necessary.
That was one of the reasons why the casino’s profitability was down, he said. In 2017, net revenues as a percentage of total revenue were just 7.8 percent. Most casinos shoot for that figure to be about 20-30 percent.
“You have a nice facility here, and you should be getting a lot more money out of it before it gets to the bottom line,” Galt said.
Former CEO Criticized
The new leadership’s arrival comes during a contentious time for the tribe. There are dueling lawsuits regarding the casino. One was filed by the tribe against its former law firm for over-billing practices. The other was filed by former casino employees and two members of the tribe’s general counsel, who claim the tribe’s new law firm personally selected Van Enkenvoort and McElroy for the top casino jobs.
In this month’s public meeting, Keith Harper, a lawyer with the law firm Kilpatrick Townsend now representing the Northern Arapaho, said the council passed a resolution prohibiting Wind River Casino employees from spending more than $10,000 or agreeing to new contracts. Yet, Harper accused former CEO Jim Conrad of trying to sabotage the casino’s finances on his way out by spending more than $1 million.
“He did it at the most pernicious time… He wanted to cause pain,” Harper said. “I’ve literally never seen anything like this in my career. It’s that extraordinary.”
Conrad could not be reached for comment Sunday evening.
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