Earlier this week, the Cowlitz Indian Tribe announced its decision to put an end to its relationship with the Mohegan Tribe, which was responsible for the operation of the highly-profitable ilani casino in Ridgefield.
As CasinoGameсPro recently covered, a few days back, the Cowlitz Tribal Council announced that it was in serious discussions, considering the termination of its six-year management contract with the Connecticut-based Mohegan Tribe. The agreement between the two tribes is bound to expire in June 2024.
On Tuesday, Cowlitz tribal officials posted an official statement on its website, informing about 4,000 of their members that the Cowlitz Tribal Gaming Authority (CTGA) and Tribal Council gave their approval of the termination of the contract with Mohegan. During this multi-step process, the ilani casino will transition from an enterprise-managed entity to a ‘self-managed enterprise’, said Chairwoman Patty Kinswa-Gaiser.
In the official statement, Kinswa-Gaiser also shared the tribe’s gratitude towards the Mohegan Tribe, which was offering guidance and partnership during the very first years of the casino’s operation. The chairwoman added that the CTGA is given enough time to start the transitioning process, during which ilani is supposed to go from a fully-managed Mohegan Tribe enterprise to a completely independent entity, which will be capable of managing itself.
Operations at ilani Casino to Remain Unchanged Until Mohegan Contract Expiration in 2024
Kinswa-Gaiser ensured that the operations at ilani will remain the same, with the Mohegan Tribe agreeing to keep its casino management services for the remaining 15 months of their contract. This period is also a part of the multi-step transition process, which is supposed to help the ilani casino to become a fully self-managed enterprise.
Although many consider this decision to be abrupt and risky, the chairwoman stated that the transition towards self-management was nothing extraordinary as the tribe was striving to evolve. She also added that a similar decision had been made by other tribes in the Northwest.
Prior to the agreement on the termination of the contract, members of the Cowlitz Tribe were showing mixed reactions to the proposal to cut ties with the Mohegan Tribe. Many believed that the Cowlitz were not ready to handle the ilani casino on their own.
The decision to end its long-term partnership with Mohegan came after a series of other issues related to a criminal antitrust investigation. In the past six months, the Cowlitz Tribe was investigated for alleged breaches of federal antitrust law as the tribe was engaging in practices to keep its ilani Casino Resort protected from competitors.
The reason why some Cowlitz Tribe members were not fully on board with the decision to cut ties with the Mohegan was the success of the ilani Casino Resort. Since its inception in 2017, the ilani Casino managed to grow exponentially, becoming one of the largest casino entities in Washington based on overall annual sales. When compared to other casinos in Oregon, the ilani Casino Resorts also grabs the first place, becoming the biggest casino in the Beaver State.