Bill Iyall, chairman of the Cowlitz Indian Tribe, said in the news release, “We are extremely pleased to open the doors to Ilani and provide the local community with a source for economic growth.” Iyall added, “Our destination is expected to attract over 4.5 million visitors a year, and we feel certain that local businesses will benefit from increased visitation to the area,” according to news sources.
Located on the Cowlitz Indian Reservation near La Center, in Washington State, the 368,000-square-foot complex includes a performance venue, three shops, a dozen or more restaurants, and Food Market, which features Smashburger, Starbucks, Italia and more. In addition to Michael Jordan’s Steak House, which was announced in late March, other restaurants made public so far include Tom’s Urban, Chef Jet, seafood restaurant Line & Lure Seafood Kitchen and Tap and venues, Muze, Bar 360, and VIP Lounge, according to The Columbian.
The venue’s 100,000 square feet of gaming space features 2,500 slots including 60 high-limit slots, and 80 gaming tables, with an additional five high-limit tables, according to recent reports.
Ground was broken in October 2015 on the casino resort developed by the Cowlitz Indian Tribe and Salishan-Mohegan LLC, which is a subsidiary of the Mohegan Tribal Gaming Authority (MTGA), the owner and operator of the Mohegan Sun in Uncasville, Connecticut, Mohegan Sun at Pocono Downs in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania, and Capital Play, Inc.
After losing a federal appeal on July 29, 2016, the Confederated Tribes of Grand Ronde, which operates the Spirit Mountain Casino in neighboring Oregon, decided to end its long-running opposition to the Cowlitz Tribe’s efforts to open the Ilani Casino. The Oregon tribe opted not to ask the United States Supreme Court to review a late-July ruling from the U.S. Court of Appeals – D.C. Circuit that upheld a 2014 decision issued by United States District Court Judge Barbara Rothstein. The move by the Grand Ronde followed the unanimous decision in May last year by officials for the nearby city of Vancouver to drop its opposition to the casino.
Along with the Confederated Tribes of the Grand Ronde, the case against the Cowlitz’s federal recognition and jurisdiction was first launched in 2010 by the city of Vancouver, Clark County, and a group called Citizens Against Reservation Shopping, which includes Scott Campbell, the publisher of The Columbian, and owners and operators of cardrooms in La Center. The various groups sought to block the Cowlitz casino and resort by challenging the tribe’s federally recognized status as well as its 152-acre reservation, which it was granted earlier that year.
On Monday, April 3, 2017, the U.S. Supreme Court denied certiorari petition, effectively exhausting all legal avenues of Cowlitz opponents.
Not yet completed, a 17,000-square-foot wing for conventions and entertainment is expected to open later in the year, with an eight-story, 250-room hotel also proposed in a future phase.
More than 1,000 people have been hired so far to staff the Ilani Casino Resort, which is situated west of Interstate 5 at Exit 16 approximately 27 miles north of Portland, the region’s largest city.
Iyall has said the Ilani will bring some 1,200 new jobs to the region and that two percent of the venue’s net revenues will be put back into to the community through arts and education programs. The tribe has also made significant contributions to the local infrastructure, with the recent completion of a $32 million fully-funded replacement of the Exit 16 interchange along I-5 at NW LaCenter Road. Additionally, the City of La Center has approved an agreement for the Cowlitz Tribe to fully fund the design and construction of a $5 million sewer line, which will extend from the La Center waste water treatment plant to the I-5 junction, according to the April 3 statement by Iyall.