After a four-year hiatus, the beep-beep-beep of video gambling machines returns to the Flathead Indian Reservation tonight at 6.
The KwaTakNuk Resort in Polson, with its 41 video gambling machines, is the biggest beneficiary of the agreement reached in March between the state and the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes.
KwaTakNuk also lost the most during the shutdown.
General manager Jay Lehmann estimates the resort lost $1 million in gaming revenue since 1993, when the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act took effect.
The federal gaming act prohibited gambling on reservations that didn’t have a compact with the state.
One of the disputes during negotiations was the tribe’s request for a second casino with more than 40 machines near Evaro.
“Negotiations broke down over that second casino,” said Wilbur Rehmann, administrator of the state Gambling Control Division.
By Tuesday, the state gambling control division had issued gaming licenses to 36 nontribal establishments on the reservation, for a total of 150 machines.
Ten more nontribal licenses are pending, Rehmann said.
Each casino besides KwaTakNuk is allowed a maximum of 20 video gambling machines.
A count of tribal businesses that will have licensed gambling was not immediately available from tribal officials.
“My expectation is we’ll see a few more, even after tomorrow,” Rehmann said. “I’d expect growth to continue.”
Lehman said he expects to add about six more employees once gambling is in full swing again.
Besides video gambling, reservation casinos are allowed to have live keno and poker, simulcast racing, Calcutta pools, fantasy sports leagues, lotteries, shake-a-day, sports pools, raffles and fishing derbies.
Maximum payouts of $1,000 are allowed for video gambling machines operated at tribal-owned locations. The maximum payout at other reservation casinos is $800.