Following years of legal wrangles with local, state and federal officials, the Cowlitz Indian Tribe of south-west Washington opened its Ilani Casino Resort yesterday morning and reportedly saw thousands of gambling enthusiasts brave cold and wet weather in order to try their luck at the tables.
According to a report from The Oregonian newspaper, the opening of the $510 million reservation casino near the small town of La Center also caused a mile-long traffic jam to develop on nearby Interstate 5 as a multitude of visitors travelled the 25 miles from downtown Portland, Oregon, to enjoy the new venue’s collection of 2,500 slots and 75 gaming tables.
“I’ve waited my entire lifetime for this,” 64-year-old Debbie Parks from Vancouver told the newspaper before revealing that she had considered selling her home in order to move closer to a casino subsequent to the Ilani Casino Resort opening “closer to me”.
The Monday inauguration was reportedly preceded by an official presentation attended by senior members of the Cowlitz Indian Tribe and the Mohegan Tribal Gaming Authority, which is to run the Ilani Casino Resort via its Salishan-Mohegan LLC joint venture, while an expectant crowd repeatedly chanted “open”.
Kara Fox-LaRose, General Manager and President for the Ilani Casino Resort, told The Oregonian that the casino opening represented “a long-awaited historical moment” while Bill Iyall, Chairman for the Cowlitz Indian Tribe, explained that his 4,000-strong federally-recognized tribe had been in the area for “12,000 years” and were “bound together as family”.
Located on the Cowlitz Indian Tribe’s 156-acre reservation in north-western Clark County, the Ilani Casino Resort moreover offers 15 dining and drinking venues, a trio of retail outlets and a 3,000-space parking lot. The facility plans to open an entertainment and meeting center capable of accommodating up to 2,500 guests later this year while its 368,000 sq ft casino includes some 100,000 sq ft of gaming space.
The Oregonian reported that the venue is expected to employ up to 1,500 people when fully operational while this could grow if the Cowlitz Indian Tribe follows through with a plan to construct a hotel on the site.
“It really changes the perception of north Clark County if not [that of] Clark County as a whole,” Brent Grening, Chief Executive Officer for the Port Of Ridgefield, told the newspaper. “We really will have a broader spectrum of visitor tourism venues that also are available to people who live here.”
After initially opposing the construction of the new casino before relenting in May of last year, the Greater Vancouver Chamber Of Commerce has now reportedly revealed that it has adopted a wait-and-see stance.
“I think the management of the casino has been very candid about running a really top-notch resort facility and we are going to learn how well it delivers on this in the next weeks and months,” John McDonagh, Chief Executive Officer for the Greater Vancouver Chamber Of Commerce, told The Oregonian. “Given the size of the commitment they have made, I would be surprised if they are not successful.”