- By Chez Oxendine
- Real Estate
The Mandan, Hidatsa, and Arikara Nation is attempting to purchase the former White Sands Motel in Las Vegas for $10.25 million, bridging a gap in the tribes’ previous purchases along the south Strip area.
The 1.1-acre property and motel, destitute and condemned, was originally listed for sale in January 2021 for $1.8 million and then went to auction in December 2022 with a proposed starting bid of $1.5 million.
A court hearing on the property sale is scheduled for March 23, according to Clark County District Court records obtained by the Las Vegas Review Journal.
The purchase, if approved, would be the latest in a series of property acquisitions along Las Vegas Boulevard by the MHA Nation. In 2022, the Nation purchased an adjacent 13-acre property that was the site of the United States’ worst-ever shooting spree at the Route 91 Harvest music festival.
The properties, along with a nearby 8.7-acre parcel the tribe acquired out of foreclosure in July 2020, would round off a portfolio of real-estate investments aimed at building a foothold for the Nation in one of the highest-traffic gaming locales in the country, according to a statement from MHA Chairman Mark Fox’s office.
The tribe doesn’t yet have concrete plans for what their eventual investment will look like. They remain confident that their investment in the area, now cresting $100 million total, will pay off in the end, Fox wrote.
The original Route 91 Harvest festival site stood at a total of 15 acres. The property’s previous owner, MGM, reserved two of those acres for a memorial to Paddock’s victims prior to selling the remaining 13 acres to the tribe for a reported $93 million.
Fox wrote that the tribe wholeheartedly endorses the memorial, and that he hopes to turn a former site of “suffering” into “something positive for the Las Vegas community and the millions of visitors who go to the area annually.”
“The land acquisition represents a substantial opportunity for investment and return for the Nation,” the statement reads. “Revenue realized in this particular business venture will continue to help fund important tribal projects and program development on Fort Berthold and for its membership. This includes infrastructure for roads, housing, new schools, healthcare, and drug treatment facilities.”
Some tribal members have raised questions regarding the purchase of the land and the use of tribal funds, with particular concerns aimed at allegedly clandestine deals made without tribal input, according to a report by KFYR-TV.
Per that report, a group calling themselves the “general council,” led by former MHA Chair Tex Hall, protested that the tribe should have been allowed to vote on the MGM land deal.
“They’re acting like they have all the supreme authority and they can do what they want with, no you can’t, you have to be accountable with the people’s money,” Hall told the TV news station. “...The tribal council is not the tribe, Joe. The people are the tribe. The people make up the tribe.”
Fox countered in an interview for the same story that the tribal business council, elected to represent the MHA Nation’s business interests, were open about their intention to buy the land and could not disclose certain terms beforehand because of a non-disclosure agreement with MGM.
“The concept of acquiring land in Las Vegas has always been done and always put out to the public,” Fox said. “There’s no hiding of it, there’s no discovering of it.”
A further clue to the tribe’s push toward acquiring Vegas property can be found in a statement Fox issued to the Minot Daily News, citing increased competition in North Dakota’s gaming scene.
“We have suffered considerable losses with our gaming operations here on Fort Berthold (Reservation) with the casino because of the rapid expansion of gaming in the state,” Fox told Minot Daily News. “So we have been looking for other ways to bring in revenue and this is one possible way of doing it to offset our losses caused by what is happening in the state.”
The investment joins a widening array of revenue sources for the MHA Nation. Currently, the MHA Nation owns the 4 Bears Casino and Lodge in New Town, North Dakota, as well as energy and gas investments previously reported by Tribal Business News.