The Cowlitz Indian Tribe, which has been lately involved in a criminal antitrust investigation, is now considering whether to end its long and profitable relationship with the Connecticut gambling operator that currently manages the Ilani Casino Resort of the southwest Washington tribe.
Last week, the Cowlitz Tribal Council came up with a statement saying that it is considering all options, including the one associated with ending its management contract with the Mohegan Tribe that is otherwise scheduled to expire in June 2024. As mentioned above, the Mohegan Tribe is considered an experience casino company that has successfully operated the Ilani Casino Resort since was opened six years ago.
According to analysts, this would be a high-risk decision for both the tribe and the area of southwest Washington. The Ilani Casino Resort, which is situated in close proximity to La Center, has been quite successful since it started operation. The venue has managed to become the most popular tourist site in Clark County, with more than 3 million visitors every year, and one of the largest employers in the region, with more than 1,500 people who currently work for the company.
The annual revenue of the Ilani Casino Resort has been estimated at between $400 million and $500 million, with the venue being considered a gold mine for the Cowlitz Tribe, which became officially recognized by the Federal Government as a tribe in 2000. Reportedly, the tribe could keep the fees that it is paying the Mohegan Tribe. It had no experience in casino management, unlike the Mohegans.
Ilani Casino Resort Grown into One of the Largest and Most Successful Casinos in the Region
In a statement issued about a week ago, the Tribal Council said that a public vote on the agreement regarding the gaming management is set to take place at its upcoming meeting. Although the leaders of the Cowlitz tribes refused to comment on the decision at the time, other members of the tribe said they were against the idea of cutting ties with the Mohegan Tribe, saying that the Cowlitzs were not ready to manage the aforementioned casino.
Casino management is not the only issue that is currently being faced by the Cowlitz Tribe. Investigators from the FBI have spent the last six months digging into possible breaches of federal antitrust law associated with the efforts of the tribe to protect the Ilani Casino Resort from competitors.
The Ilani Casino Resort, however, has been experiencing good times. It has recently celebrated its fifth anniversary by announcing a month-long event featuring various gaming offers to its patrons and special appearances by rockers Rick Springfield and Loverboy. As mentioned above, the casino has managed to quickly grow to become one of the biggest ones in Washington in terms of overall annual sales. It is also far bigger than any casino in Oregon.
The construction of a 14-story hotel adjacent to the 110,000-square-foot casino venue is almost complete and is expected to boost the resort’s sales even further when finalized.
At the time when the Cowlitz Tribe inked its agreement with the Mohegan Tribe for a 24% stake in Ilani Casino Resort, it had no experience in gambling at all. Despite that, it got its fair share from the revenues, which in 2021 rose to $70 million, marking an 88.2% growth over the results posted in the previous year. According to the company’s statement, higher management fees from Ilani Casino Resort were responsible for the property’s strong performance at the time.