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Red Lake Band members vote to continue alcohol ban at casinos

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Alcohol will not be served at Seven Clans casinos after the majority of Red Lake Band of Chippewa members voted on the referendum Wednesday to continue the ban.

It was a close vote, according to preliminary voting results released Wednesday night – 53.7 percent voted to continue banning the sale of alcoholic beverages at the casinos in Warroad and Thief River Falls.

Official results will be certified at 10 a.m. Thursday by the general election board, the Bemidji Pioneer notes.

Alcohol sales have been a contentious subject in the area around the Red Lake Reservation – Minnesota’s only dry reservation – for years due in part to the tribe’s high rate of alcoholism and substance abuse, MPR News reported.

“It’s been proving to be a heavily debated issue,” Charles Dolson, executive administrator to the Red Lake Tribal Council, told the Bemidji Pioneer Wednesday.

Before the vote, tribal leaders had said allowing the sale of alcoholic beverages at the two Seven Clans Casino locations would be a win-win for the tribe, noting proceeds from the sales would go toward operational costs at the casinos.

They also stressed the referendum would not allow alcohol on the "diminished reservation," including the casino in Red Lake.

Others noted that the sale of alcohol at the two casinos would put the establishments on the same level as other casinos in the state, which serve alcohol, WDAZ notes.

There are 11 Indian tribes in Minnesota that operate a total of 18 casinos throughout the state, the Minnesota Indian Gaming Association notes.

Of the state’s four largest Indian casinos, Mystic Lake Casino run by the Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux Community became the last one to offer alcohol sales, when it lifted its ban in 2012, Twin Cities Business Magazine reported.

The lack of alcohol sales at some Minnesota casinos had kept some guests from returning, the Star Tribune said.

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The Red Lake Band of Chippewa Indians will officially break ground on a new Seven Clans Casino Hotel and Restaurant in Warroad on Oct. 25. The Bemidji Pioneer reports pre-construction on the 165-acre site is already underway and full construction is expected to begin in March. The new complex will include 600 slot machines, a 100-seat restaurant and a 60-room hotel.

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