The Cowlitz Indian Tribe, which owns the ilani Casino Resort in Ridgefield, Washington, surprised its over 3,600 members last week when it revealed that tribal leaders were evaluating the possibility of breaking away from their long-time gaming partner.
The tribal casino opened in 2017, with Mohegan Gaming & Entertainment, owned by the Mohegan Tribe of Connecticut, managing the property. After four years of cooperation, the Cowlitz’s agreement with Mohegan is set to expire in June 2024, and tribal officials are now deciding whether they have the necessary expertise to take over the operation of the resort.
The ilani Casino Resort has been a great success, mainly due to its proximity to Portland. With over 110,000 square feet of gaming floor, it offers nearly 3,000 slot machines and 75 table games, plus a sportsbook. Though the exact revenue data is not publicly available, the Cowlitz’s Class III gaming compact with Washington requires them to share 2% of their net table game win with the state, giving a rough estimate of the casino’s earnings. Mohegan’s management agreement sees them receive 24% of the casino’s net profits.
The Cowlitz Indian Tribe has been the subject of a federal inquiry for the past six months, as the US Justice Department investigates whether the tribe has been in violation of antitrust laws to keep away rival tribal casinos. This has raised concerns among some tribal members, questioning whether the tribe is organized enough to handle the management of such a large casino.
When it comes to the management of tribal casinos, many tribes turn to more experienced third-party tribal or commercial gaming management firms. Popular choices include Cherokee Nation Entertainment (owned by the Cherokee Nation) and Hard Rock International (owned by the Seminole Tribe).
The Cowlitz Indian Tribe has shocked its more than 3,600 members by revealing that tribal leaders are considering separating from their longtime gaming partner. The ilani Casino Resort is a major success due to its close proximity to Portland, with over 110,000 square feet of gaming floor, nearly 3,000 slot machines, 75 table games, and a sportsbook. Though the exact revenue information is not available, the Cowlitz’s Class III gaming compact with Washington gives a rough estimate of the casino’s earnings. The US Justice Department is investigating whether the tribe has violated antitrust laws in its efforts to keep away other tribal casinos, leading to doubts about the tribe’s capacity to manage the property. As such, many tribes opt for experienced third-party gaming management firms such as Cherokee Nation Entertainment and Hard Rock International.