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Jan. 27, 2022

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Ilani casino sets opening date: April 24

$510 million project features restaurants, food court, gaming floor — but no buffet

By , Columbian staff writer

Ilani Casino Resort will officially open its doors at 10 a.m. April 24.

The opening was confirmed by casino officials Friday afternoon, punctuating a torrid two weeks of announcements of the casino’s restaurants and shops, and even a ceremonial blessing of the new Interstate 5 overpass nearby.

“We are extremely pleased to open the doors to Ilani and provide the local community with a source for economic growth,” said Bill Iyall, chairman of the Cowlitz tribe, who is jointly developing the project with the Mohegan Tribe of Connecticut.

“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,” Iyall said.

Officially, the space will include 100,000 square feet of gaming space with 2,500 slot machines and 75 gaming tables. Games offered will include blackjack, roulette, midi baccarat, craps and Pai gow poker.

The casino will also have a dozen restaurants, three shops and a food court. Among the restaurants named are Michael Jordan’s Steak House and seafood restaurant Line & Lure Seafood Kitchen and Tap. There will be no buffet.

“We are thrilled to welcome the community to an exciting new entertainment destination that is Ilani,” said Kara Fox-LaRose, president and general manager of the casino.

The casino is expected to make a large economic impact. At 368,000 square feet, it is the largest and closest casino to the Vancouver-Portland metro area. Businesses in neighboring cities such as Ridgefield, La Center and Woodland hope to catch new customers in its orbit.

Meanwhile, two out of four cardrooms in La Center have closed since 2014 while employees take jobs at the casino and revenues dip.

Construction isn’t completely wrapped up. A 17,000-square-foot wing for conventions and entertainment is expected to open later this year. A hotel has also been proposed in a future phase.

The $510 million casino resort broke ground last January, just west of La Center, at exit 16 of Interstate 5. More than 1,000 people have been hired to staff it.

An executive with the Mohegan tribe in the statement called Ilani Casino Resort an “enormous accomplishment by the dedicated teams of both organizations and all our talented construction partners.”

Even landing a casino was a yearslong endeavor. The Cowlitz tribe became federally recognized by the U.S. Department of the Interior in 2002 and was awarded its 152-acre site in 2010, a decision that was challenged in court until the U.S. Supreme Court decided earlier this month not to hear the case.

Columbian staff writer