A little Branson, Vegas in Butte?

Montana State Roundup

Published May 1, 2003  | May 2003 issue

A special entertainment and music district in Butte that would allow wide-open gambling at a projected 10 casinos has been proposed by developers. Dubbed Destination Montana, the district would also include a theme park, about 40 musical theaters like those in Branson, Mo., golf courses, high-altitude sports training centers and thousands of motel and hotel rooms.

Developers of the $1.8 billion project have estimated 70,000 visitors annually and say that construction could begin in 2004 and be finished as early as 2006.

But the project needs legislative approval to expand gambling. A bill before the Legislature at this writing would allow the casinos to be open 24 hours a day, would place no restrictions on the size of bets or prizes and would remove residency requirements for liquor licenses in the gaming district.

At the same time, the developers are laying groundwork on several fronts. They have met with the Butte local of the state hotel and restaurant workers union and signed an agreement that defines the parameters of the union's and developers' relationship. And they are working with representatives of Montana Indian tribes to involve them somehow in the gambling side of the project. If the Legislature allows changes in gambling rules for the Butte project, then Indian casinos can legally adopt those same rules under the federal Indian Gaming Act.

Kathy Cobb