The Standing Rock Sioux Tribe of North Dakota says a brutally cold winter, as well as massive protests over the Dakota Access crude oil pipeline, are responsible for a budget shortfall of nearly $6 million. Tribal leaders say business at the Prairie Knights Casino has dropped sharply of late, and were unsure when it would pick back up.

Standing Rock Sioux Prairie Knights casino North Dakota pipeline

Protests over controversial Dakota Access Pipeline construction and extreme winter weather are blamed by the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe of North Dakota for a nearly $6 million budget shortfall at its Prairie Knights Casino, which is located on the Standing Rock reservation. (Image: Andrew Cullen / Reuters)

“It’s like it’s fallen off a cliff,” tribal financial officer Jerome Long Bottom told the Associated Press. “When the bridge was shut off, the numbers just plummeted.”

Access Choked Off to Casino

Highway 1806, the main artery from the north to the resort, has been closed since the protests, and remains shutdown. Anyone trying to get to the facility from that area would have to drive approximately 90 minutes out of their way to reach it.

President Donald Trump approved the construction of the pipeline that had been halted by President Obama. The thousand or so protestors were subsequently ordered to disband from the camp where they had set up a base of operations.

Last week, police went to the area to disperse the remaining hold outs and 10 arrests were made. Despite the land being cleared, Highway 1806 remains shuttered indefinitely, according to the North Dakota Department of Transportation.

Hoping for Better Times

The casino is one of the main sources of revenue for the tribe, and leaders are worried about how long it could be before a recovery will take place.

The economic impact is significant. Prairie Knights reported in 2016 that it purchased goods and services worth $9.1 million from 267 North Dakota businesses, including $7.1 million in the Bismarck-Mandan area. The casino employs 350 people, about 60 percent of whom are from Standing Rock, according to the Bismarck Tribune news site. Getting gamblers to return is now the main priority.

“I don’t know how bad the perception is,” Long Bottom said regarding the impact of the protests.

General Manager E.J. Iron Eyes is in the middle of a public relations campaign to try to increase business.

“I’m looking for things to improve as we move into summer,” he said.