By the end of the year, the Angel of the Winds Casino north of Arlington will complete $44 million of fast-paced construction work that has more than tripled the size of the popular gaming venue over recent months.
Billed as “The World’s Friendliest Casino” since it opened in Oct. 2004, the facility has continued to grow in attendance even during construction.
“We’ve seen a nice increase since we announced the expansion,” Angel of the Winds General Manager Travis O’Neil said. Normally, the casino welcomes about 800,000 every year, but that number likely will be more this year, he said.
The casino continues to compete well with the larger Tulalip Resort Casino in Marysville, offering Las Vegas-style gaming, 99-cent meals and a customer-oriented staff that works hard to bring in more customers by making sure the ones already there are having a good time, said Eric Larsen, director of marketing.
“We’ve set Dec. 28 for our grand opening of the new area, including our new restaurant and lounge,” Larsen said. “Then in January we’ll close the old area for one to two months for a freshen-up and renovation. There won’t be any poker or Keno then until we have a really big grand opening for the whole facility in March.”
The always popular 99-cent meals from Katie’s Kitchen will be provided in the new lounge until March.
Expansion of the casino comes at a good time, he said, when the economy needs a boost. At a Job Fair held recently, the casino was able to hire all of the 300 new employees it needs to operate the new gaming machines, food services and table games.
“Most of those new hires are full-time positions,” he said. “We try to hold down the number of part-time people we hire. It gives us and our employees more stability. We’ll soon employ more than 500 people here.”
More than 84,000 square feet will be added to the existing facility, including a three-story building that will double the casino’s gaming area, adding 17,000 square feet to the present 15,000-square-foot space. Also, administrative staff will leave on-site trailers to move into permanent offices inside the new building.
“We’ve listened to our guests, and our expansion will provide them with the new services and amenities they requested,” O’Neil said. “New features will include a 150-seat full-service restaurant, a larger gift shop, a lounge with live entertainment, and more slots and tables, plus a separate eight-table poker room and a keno room.”
Today, the casino has 535 slot machines, 12 gaming tables, the Bears Den lounge and Katie’s Kitchen. When the new addition to the casino opens, the Stillaguamish Tribe will offer a total of 1,000 slots and 14 gaming tables.
“The Tulalip and Skagit casinos each have their own niche, and so do we,” said O’Neil. “We call ourselves ‘the friendliest casino,’ and the people we hire support that. People really enjoy coming here for that friendliness and, of course, a lot of winning. We also have low-priced meals, plenty of parking and a variety of gaming options. The success of the casino, and our expansion plans, depends on the executive team, of course, but very much on the people we hire.”
Success for the casino will continue to depend on hiring people “who enjoy working here, have a positive attitude and a willingness to be friendly; that’s important to us,” said O’Neil.
Eventually, the tribe may consider building a hotel or adding other features, but it all depends on what the guests want most, he said, and nothing like that is being planned for now. Larsen said requests from guests helped greatly in planning the present expansion.
“That’s why we’ve added a large sit-down restaurant and bar with live entertainment and a separate poker room, plus a larger gift shop,” Larsen said. “There’ll even be a small banquet room seating up to 48 people.”
ICI Design Group of Minneapolis and JE Dunn Construction Co.’s Northwest office in Seattle, builders of the original casino, are also handling the architectural and construction needs for the expansion projects. Photos of the construction progress can be seen on the casino’s Web site, www.angelofthewinds.com.
As part of its contract with the state of Washington, the casino will continue to dedicate thousands of dollars to nonprofit organizations twice a year. Primary agencies supported by the Stillaguamish Tribe include organizations that help to meet the needs of seniors and children, particularly involving health care and education.
In 2007, a donation of $181,132 was distributed among such groups as the Camano Senior and Community Center, Arlington Library, Arlington Boys &Girls Club, Campfire USA, Arlington Dollars for Scholars, Red Cross, Center for Battered Women, Sno-Isle Genealogical Society, Native American Spiritual Group, Sarvey Wildlife Center and North County Fire/EMS District 14.
The casino is a short drive east from I-5’s Exit 210 interchange. Head east to 35th Ave. NE, then turn left. The casino entrance is a few minutes away, on the left side of the road.