Often, a place’s name provides clues to its history. Kansas City, Kan., is located in Wyandotte County, named for an Indian nation that “relocated” to the area in the 1840s. Later, the natives would again be displaced and forced to move to Oklahoma, where the tribal government resides today.
Little evidence of the tribe’s Kansas City past remains, but one such place is Huron Park. It is known to some as an ordinary cemetery, but to the Wyandottes, it’s a sacred burial ground.
A History of Conflict and Resolution
Dating back to 1843, the cemetery is the final resting place of generations of Wyandotte Indians, including those who were moved from their original native lands in Ohio. Because it is held in trust for the Wyandotte nation by the federal government, the land was eligible under the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act of 1972 to be used for a tribal casino. This is how the 7th Street Casino came to reality. It may be the closest thing to an Indian casino that Missouri will ever have, because there are no federally recognized Indian nations remaining in the state.
Over time the downtown Kansas City, Kan., business district grew to encompass the cemetery area, and real estate became more valuable for its redevelopment potential. Meanwhile, a small but determined opposition to development was carried on by Wyandotte member Lyda Conley and her sisters in the first few years of the 20th century. At times, they resorted to living on the cemetery grounds and defending it with rifles. Eventually Conley became the first woman admitted to the Kansas Bar Association, and with the aid of Kansas Senator Charles Curtis, she helped see the cemetery designated as a federal park.
Establishing the 7th Street Casino was also an uphill battle. A gaming facility with 165 slot machines in four mobile homes was launched there by the Wyandotte Nation in 1993, only to be shut down a few months later by the Kansas Attorney General and local law enforcement. After a protracted legal battle with regulators, the Wyandottes emerged victorious and the current facility officially opened in 2008. Wyandotte Nation Second Chief Norman Hildebrand anticipates further litigation as 7th Street continues to pursue the addition of table games, a request that already has been denied at least once.
Good Things Come in Small Packages
In recent years the downtown Kansas City, Kan., area has been the focus of extensive revitalization efforts. Located in a former Masonic Temple hall, the 7th Street Casino has been an integral part of this endeavor. The building was given an extensive renovation by the Wyandottes, using the 12 original green marble pillars in the main hall as a focal point.
The 7th Street Casino is a very different experience from the massive Vegas-style gaming facilities that are common in the area. Offering a more intimate, relaxed environment, 7th Street is also unique in that it currently offers no table games, but boasts more than 600 slot machines. Many of the slots are networked with similar machines in other casinos, allowing players to compete against others remotely.
Kansas City, Kan., is a relatively new destination for casino gaming. Argosy, Isle of Capri, Harrah’s and Ameristar casinos are all on the Missouri side, scattered along the Missouri River. Their idiosyncratic “boats-in-moats” configuration keeps them in compliance with Missouri gaming laws, though it is often difficult to find any evidence of the water required by this unusual regulatory structure.
In Kansas, as in many western states, the gaming industry is dominated by Indian nations. Although the Wyandotte Nation has a strong gaming presence in its home state of Oklahoma, 7th Street is its first casino in Kansas. The 7th Street location in a bustling downtown area is also unique, making it easily accessible to local residents and visitors to the area. Its 20,000 sq.-ft. gaming area could fit inside the sprawling, St. Charles-based Ameristar Casino seven times.
A Modern Facility Offers a Glimpse of the Past
Drawing inspiration from existing architecture, and with an eye toward Kansas City’s jazz-age legacy, 7th Street’s Art Deco interior features highlights such as chrome accents, beveled mirrors, and subtle lighting. The Shutter Bar, located on the third floor and open daily from 10 am to 2 am, has a speakeasy theme that fits well with the overall décor. Zappers, another bar on the second floor, specializes in vintage cocktails that continue the retro feel.
There are several hotel choices within a few blocks of the casino, and a free shuttle carries guests to and from the nearby parking area.
The Casino Café offers good value in breakfast and lunch favorites for gamers taking a break from the action. Groups of up to 30 can center their gatherings in the café before heading out to explore the casino floor.
7th Street is ideal for small groups wanting to mix business with pleasure, or simply enjoy a little well deserved down time after a long day of meetings.
7th Street Casino
777 N. Seventh Street Trafficway
Kansas City, KS 66101