The major road artery connecting the Osage Million Dollar Elm Bartlesville Casino to State Highway 123 will close for construction improvements in March. To offset losses in gaming patronage due to the project, tribal and casino officials are announcing a detour route for casino goers, which is accessible from U.S. 60 west of Bartlesville. Starting March 1, construction crews will close County Road 2714, which leads west from Highway 123 on Bartlesville’s west side (south of ConocoPhillips) for an improvement project by 39 Hill. The road is notorious for cracks and potholes and has been in need of repair for a while, locals say. During the 39 Hill road project, casino goers coming from Bartlesville will be directed to head west on U.S. 60 and drive about six miles to County Road 2145 then turn left at the intersection. The 4-mile-drive southbound on CR 2145 will take visitors straight to the Bartlesville casino. The Bartlesville casino road project and its potential impact on gaming revenue was discussed during the Jan. 26 special session of the Second Osage Nation Congress. Congressmen Mark Simms and Geoffrey Standing Bear wished to hear from the casino and Roads Department officials on the issues because they have been hearing rumors that the 39 Hill road project would significantly impact gaming revenue from the casino, which could mean employee layoffs as a result of any lost patronage. Seventy percent of Bartlesville casino traffic comes up 39 Hill, said RJ Walker, who is director of the Nation’s Roads Department. He told Congress there are plans to pave gravel portions of CR 2145 for the detoured motorists who will use the road. As for the employee layoff rumors, OMDEC CEO Neil Cornelius set the record straight. “We have no plans for any layoffs, we have no plans to do other things at this point,” Cornelius said. He said the casino employees and officials will continue to study any potential impacts to the casino operations which will continue with its 24-7 business as usual. Congressman William “Kugee” Supernaw asked if there was a “plan B” or if the project could be delayed. Walker replied there is no alternative plan, so the project is scheduled to start between March 1 and March 15. Chris White, the executive director of governmental affairs for Principal Chief John Red Eagle, told Congress efforts are underway to develop a promotional campaign to alert the public of the road construction/ detour for casino guests. Walker said developing the road project, which also involves Osage County road officials, has taken years and will be funded with federal dollars awarded to the Nation for the construction. The road project could last up to six months. Congressman Eddy Red Eagle said he supports the 39 Hill road improvements, noting “we’re better off in many, many ways… someone’s going to get hurt on the old ’39.’ It’s a dangerous road.” The Bartlesville casino, which currently employs 203 people, opened in spring 2006. The casino is 42,000 square-feet and houses over 600 slot machines, six blackjack tables, and two poker tables, according to the OMDEC Web site.