The opening of the Ilani Casino in Clark Count, Washington has hardly been kept a secret, nonetheless the crowds it attracted on opening day were impressive. The $510 million casino complex drew thousands of people who came despite the miles of bumper-to-bumper traffic they had to face to get there.
Throughout the day on Monday Interstate 5 was slammed with casino-goers eager to try their luck at the Cowlitz Indian Tribe’s new casino. Traffic was backed up as far as eight miles, nearly reaching the junction of interstate 5 and 205 north of Vancouver. A spokesman for the Washington State Department of Transportation said in an interview with the Oregonian that he would be working with operators to avoid these issues in the future.
Part of this back up could be attributed to the fact that the casino had such a good turnout on opening day that it was forced to turn customers away. Once the 3,000-car parking lot reached its capacity, the casino had no other choice. The back up on the Interstate began more than an hour before the casino even opened and lasted until late Monday afternoon. Emergency crews set up reader boards to alert drivers of the situation.
Concerns still linger about the effect that the Ilani Casino will have on surrounding competition. The Ilani is just within a 2-hour drive of Spirit Mountain, a casino operated by the Confederated Tribes of Grand Ronde, who predicted a $100 million drop in revenue each year, due to the opening of the Ilani casino.
In addition to the effects it will have on surrounding casinos, the opening of the Ilani is expected to have a seriously negative impact on the Oregon Lottery. Estimations claim it could see a $110 million a year loss in video sales alone. This would equate to an additional $72 million lost in tax revenue, according to Oregon’s Office of Economic Analysis.
That being said, it’s not all bad news for the opening of the Ilani Casino. The Ilani will employ roughly 1,000 workers and another 500 for its retail and food vendors. The Cowlitz Tribe has already financed $32 million in freeway interchange improvements to handle the increased traffic to accommodate the estimated four and half million visitors annually. At the time of the casinos opening the construction was still under way, which may have contributed to the major delays.
Port of Ridgefield CEO, Brent Grening, had nothing but praise for the newly opened Ilani, saying that it changes the perception of Clark County as a whole by bringing in an attractive tourist destination. Even its former opponents offered praise for the new casino. The Greater Vancouver Chamber of Commerce, who opposed the casino in 2006, said that they’d be shocked if the casino were anything other than successful.