Tribal gambling has become a huge market in the United States, with tribal gaming revenues growing faster in 2007 than Vegas revenues. It became even more competitive in northern Michigan at the end of June. The brand new multi-million dollar Turtle Creek Casino & Hotel opened to the public on June 19, a few days ahead of its official grand opening celebration June 24. With the new casino and 8-story hotel, the Grand Traverse Band of Ottawa and Chippewa Indians hope to renew their market share in the travel and tourism industry. Prior to the opening, the tribe’s market had declined, at least partly due to poor economy in that state and the US in general.

“We’re all faced with a softer economy,” said Ron Olson, CEO of the Grand Traverse Band’s Economic Development Corp. “We feel with the new casino and hotel, we can maintain our market share.”

The band faces steep competition from the tribal casinos existing in nearby Petoskey and Manistee but Olson expressed confidence that Turtle Creek can maintain competitiveness with its new modern amenities and upscale offerings. He explained that they had studied the other casinos to see what worked and what didn’t to know what to include in the Turtle Creek project.

The new facility boasts a 74,000 square foot gambling floor on the ground floor with about 1,300 machines, table games and a large poker room. The new casino floor will hold the same amount of slot machines as the old one did but includes extra room in order to incorporate other activities. The third floor contains a 200-seat night club overlooking the casino floor where customers can watch the action on the gaming tables while enjoying live entertainment..

The luxurious appointments begin before you even enter the casino with lighted walkways, water walls and reflection ponds outside the main entrance. The lobby’s eye-catching waterfall towers 30 feet between two escalators that will take customers to the upper floors. The casino is connected to the hotel next door by a sky-lit walkway which will display art work and historical information about the tribe. Customers will have several choices in dining from the upscale Bourbons 72 to Seasons, a buffet restaurant with room for 300 people. There is also a large coffeehouse and a New York-style deli on the premises. The hotel offers 137 units starting with standard hotel room on up to lavish suites.