Oak Tree casino abruptly closes

Struggling business promises to reopen

By Erik Hidle, Columbian staff writer

Published:

Updated: December 24, 2012, 7:43 PM

 

WOODLAND — The Oak Tree restaurant and casino closed its doors over the weekend, leaving workers and investors wondering if they will see money that was due to them on Christmas Eve.

Just after noon on Monday, a few employees tried to open the doors of the business to find them locked. They inquired with Chris Poma, who sat in his pickup truck in the parking lot, asking if he knew where they could collect their paychecks.

Poma shook his head and told them, “I don’t know.”

Poma is a minority investor in the casino. He says he moved to Woodland from San Diego last December and put $104,000 into the operation for a 2 percent stake in the cardroom, restaurant and bar.

Just a year later he has no idea what exactly is going on with his investment.

“No idea at all what is happening,” Poma said. “We heard (the three main investors) were meeting with another group to sell it.”

A banner on the building states the casino is “closed for remodeling; under new ownership; open soon.” Another note on the front door, scrawled in green marker states simply “closed until further notice.”

Earlier this month, a casino spokesman noted the casino had been struggling.

General Manager Chuck McCormick said the casino generated less than a third of its expected business in its the first year, and that things did not appear to be looking up. The city of Woodland expected the casino to bring in $200,000 in tax revenues. Through November, the casino had added just $63,342 to the city coffers.

Attempts to contact McCormick, also one of the nine investors in the cardroom, were unsuccessful on Monday.

The casino had been modifying its business strategy in recent weeks. According to Poma, most of the games in the casino were going to shut down, but the bar and restaurant were to remain intact.

But on Dec. 18, he said, he received a contract to sign which released him from his lease obligation on the building. Other than that, he’s heard nothing. And he doesn’t know if he’ll get back the money he’s invested.

“But how do you think the employees felt,” Poma said, pointing out it was Christmas Eve.

Some went to Facebook to post on the company’s page. Many claiming to be employees posted outrage over the casino shuttering without paying its employees. They too noted the precarious timing with the Christmas holidays here.

Erik Hidle: 360-735-4547; http://twitter.com/col_clarkgov; erik.hidle@columbian.com.