|Corporate Profile: History
Life on the Winnebago Indian Reservation in northeast Nebraska has been difficult for the population throughout the Tribe’s history here. By 1988, the only businesses on the reservation were a gas station and a grocery store, both losing money. The reservation had an unemployment rate of more than 60%, as well as many of the social maladies associated with poverty.
In 1992, after changes to Iowa gambling laws, the Winnebago Tribe opened a casino on tribal land, near the town of Sloan, Iowa. The casino was an immediate success. The operation continued to be successful, but in 1994 Iowa expanded gaming in the Tribe’s primary markets.
The Tribe realized that gaming revenues would not be a long-term solution to the Tribe’s overall goal of prosperity. Ho-Chunk, Inc. was formed in 1994 to diversify the Tribe’s investments away from gaming. The goal was to develop an entrepreneurial company that was able to recognize and develop various economic opportunities.
The Tribe initially financed Ho-Chunk, Inc. with gaming income. However, in just a few short years, due to increased competition, that financing was eliminated. This was a turning point for the corporation. This “make or break” experience helped mold Ho-Chunk, Inc. into an innovative and aggressive entity committed to developing new revenue streams for the Tribe.