RIVERTON - While Wyoming's Indian tribes are working to turn casino gambling into big business, many area shop owners aren't convinced the casinos will do much for them.
"Right now most of the business attitude has been wait and see," said Phil Christopherson, executive director of IDEA Inc., Riverton's economic development arm. "Nobody is banking their business on the success of the casino."
Downtown merchants on Riverton's Main Street have doubts that casino patrons are visiting their shops, said Lorraine Armstrong, assistant director of the Riverton Chamber of Commerce.
Likewise, casino traffic doesn't seem to be driving business in Lander, although the impact is somewhat hard to measure because of the strong summer tourism season, said Scott Goetz, executive director of the Lander Area Chamber of Commerce.
"I think generally tourism is up in Fremont County and Lander, and I think the casinos have probably enhanced that," Goetz said. Casinos are "another opportunity for people to get involved in while they are here."
Even hotel owners and managers said they aren't seeing a noticeable impact from the casinos.
Peggy Jevne, sales manager at the Holiday Inn in Riverton, said guests are asking questions about the casinos, but they don't seem to be visiting the area strictly to gamble.
"A lot of people are like, 'You have a casino, don't you?'" Jevne said. "I think that will probably pick up a little bit."
Riverton hotel owner and contractor Garth Yeates said he expects an upcoming expansion of Wind River Casino south of town to have some impact on local businesses.
The Northern Arapaho Tribe plans to expand into a nearby 44,000-square-foot location. The tribe also has plans for a hotel and other amenities.
Yeates, who owns the Comfort Inn in Riverton, is coordinating with Wind River Casino to offer complimentary rooms to important guests. More opportunities like that could come along as the casinos expand, he said.
"It's going to change Riverton when it's done," Yeates said. "It will make Riverton kind of a destination."