Three years after being shut down by federal officials, Seminole tribal representatives say Rivermist, a popular gaming facility located on State Highway 99 just outside of Konawa, is approximately a month away from reopening. “Machines are in place and ready to go,” said Bill Murray, executive director of Seminole Nation Development Authority.

“The National Indian Gaming Commission is working on licensing that will let the tribe open up with three shifts, allowing us to operate 24 hours a day,” he said. Murray said the facility will require a total of 70 employees and 10 to 12 people are still needed to have a full staff.

“Not all employees need a state gaming commission license, but all must have clean records and be able to pass an FBI check,” Murray said.

Rivermist was forced to close in 2003 when National Indian Gaming Commission (NIGC) officials ruled the operation was engaging in class 3 gaming. Murray said most of what will take place in the reopened facility, at least initially, will be class 2 gaming.

Enoch Kelly Haney, former Oklahoma State Senator, was elected Seminole tribal chief in September 2005, and less than five months later his influence is impacting tribal operations. Prior to Haney taking office, reopening of Rivermist had been stymied by internal tribal bickering. Some who had done business with the tribe were finding it difficult to get paid for work performed. With Haney’s election as chief, Rivermist is almost set to open and previous and current creditors are getting their money.

Asked about the change, Leon Lusty, Seminole Nation program manager, said Chief Haney brought a trust factor to the table and that the positive changes have resulted from a concerted effort by Haney, the tribal council, Murray, SNGC gaming commissioners and the NIGC.

The tribe already operates two other gaming facilities, Wewoka Trading Post in Wewoka and Mystic Winds Casino on I-40.

Haney said gaming is not the only enterprises the tribe is looking at as a way of enhancing employment and economic opportunity for its members in the communities in which they operate.

“It’s been going very well for us and we just want to make sure everything is done right,” Haney said. “For us, the casino is not the main thing we’ll be involved with in order to create new business for the tribe and employment opportunities. We are negotiating now to purchase a construction company in Oklahoma City that just received a $23 million contract.

“Other business opportunities include the possibility of opening a water bottling company,” he said.