ARLINGTON – Crews are stepping briskly through the final weeks of construction on the Stillaguamish Tribe’s new $19 million Angel of the Winds casino, set to open Oct. 28 at a rural site a few miles northwest of Arlington.
Even while construction crews apply the finishing touches, the tribe is working hard to line up property for a better casino site somewhere near Smokey Point, said Eddie Goodridge Jr., the tribe’s executive director.
“I wouldn’t be surprised if sometime in the beginning of 2005 we have an application in to the federal government on that property,” Goodridge said, referring to the paperwork required to convert land to federal trust status. Doing so would allow the tribe to bypass many local land-use rules, as it has done with its current casino project.
Goodridge said the tribe has not yet purchased any property but is pursuing at least five different sites in Smokey Point. He would not divulge their exact locations.
The possibility of a NASCAR track being built southeast of Smokey Point makes that area – with its close proximity to I-5 – even more attractive for a casino, he said.
In contrast, the 22,000-square-foot metal shell of the Angel of the Winds casino is rapidly filling with slot machines in a secluded rural neighborhood on back-roads about two miles east of I-5.
Neighbors there strongly opposed the casino, forming a group called No Dice, but they were unable to stop the project.
One of the group’s organizers, Ken Childress, had once been hopeful about Goodridge’s plans to eventually move the casino to Smokey Point.
Now, Childress worries that the state might someday allow the tribe to operate two casinos, meaning the one in his neighborhood would not close and move after all.
Other tribes, including the Tulalip Tribes, have been allowed to open two casinos. The Tulalip Tribes recently reopened their original casino, built in 1992, to augment the business from its new casino, which opened in 2003.
“My guess is someday there will be a second casino,” Childress said of the Stillaguamish Tribe.
For now, the tribe’s first casino is nearing completion. Most of the 425 slot machines are in place. The casino will only have Sierra Design Group games, which take tickets, not cards.
Other casinos have both kinds of slots and customers are usually inconvenienced by having to make more money exchanges if they want to switch games, said Gary Pavick, the casino’s slots manager.
In one corner, workers are finishing The Bear’s Den and Katie’s Kitchen, a combination lounge and restaurant. The casino’s aesthetic downplays artistic references to American Indian motifs.
That’s deliberate, Goodridge said.
“Everything’s designed to be a woodsy, lodge-type thing,” Goodridge said. “It’s a casino, not a cultural hall.”
The opening of the Tulalip Tribes’ new casino should not be a threat to the Stillaguamish business, Goodridge said.
“Theirs is a little more like a nightclub casino,” Goodridge said.
Angel of the Winds will be more of a neighborhood casino, where the staff is encouraged to remember the regular customers’ names and treat them well, he said. Bigger casinos can’t do that, Pavick said.
“We can certainly out-nice them, and that’s what we’re going to push with our staff,” Pavick said.
The casino will first open to the general public 8 p.m. Oct. 28 until 2 a.m. Oct. 29. Regular hours will be 10 a.m. to 2 a.m.
For Goodridge, the casino represents a sort of vindication after two years of often harsh questions from No Dice, the media and even some members of his own tribe.
“I don’t know why they doubted me,” Goodridge said.
Reporter Scott Morris: 425-339-3292 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Angel of the Winds casino
Location: On 35th Avenue northwest of Arlington
Cost: $19 million construction (plus $9 million demolishing housing and relocating tribal members)
Size: 22,000 square feet
Employees: 213 employees with a monthly payroll of $1 million
Features: The casino will have 425 video slot machines, 12 game tables, one lounge and one restaurant.
Hours: 8p.m.-2 a.m. Oct. 28. Regular hours will be 10 a.m.-2 a.m.
The Tulalip Casino
Opened: June 5, 2003
Location: 10200 Quil Ceda Blvd.
Cost: $78 million
Size: 227,000 square feet
Hours: Open 24 hours a day Thursday through Saturday; close at 6 a.m. and reopen at 10 a.m. Monday-Wednesday.
Features: The casino has 49 game tables, 2,000 video slot machines, a poker room, a high-stakes gambling room and three restaurants. The casino’s Canoes Cabaret offers disc jockeys as well as live entertainment.
The Quil Ceda Creek Casino
Open: July 17, 1992 as the Tulalip Tribes’ original casino
Location: 3410 31st Ave. NE,
Cost: $2.5 million, plus $2 million recent upgrade
Size: 45,000 square feet
Employees: About 180
Hours: 10 a.m. Wednesday through 6 a.m. Monday.
Features: The casino has 12 game tables and 600 video slot machines, The Q nightclub with disc jockeys and the Pair-A-Dice Cafe.
History: The casino closed in June 2003 when the new Tulalip Casino opened. Original plans were to remodel it for use as a bingo hall. After a $2 million remodel, it opened June 29 as the Tulalips’ second casino. It now employs about 180 people, up from 120 before the remodel.