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Tribes Looking Beyond Casinos Plans Include Hotels, Theaters, Golf Courses To Attract Tourists

Fri., May 12, 1995

The lure of riches at the poker and blackjack tables draws the crowds. Now, Washington state’s Native American tribes are hoping comfortable hotels, movie theaters and business facilities will keep them around.

With the recent announcement of plans for a $50 million “destination” complex, the Tulalip Tribes have kicked off what many see as an inevitable trend toward full-scale casino-based resorts.

If the money keeps coming in, tribes from the rural coast to the Seattle area may someday host all manner of tourists, from golfers and business people to families looking for a complete vacation.

The Tulalip development, which includes an 11-story hotel, convention center, Las Vegas-style showroom, shops and theaters, is the largest and most advanced proposal to date.

The Tulalip Tribes have signed a 30-year contract with New York-based Seven Arrows Investment and Development Corp. They expect the complex, on reservation land along Interstate 5 about 35 miles north of Seattle, to be completed within 18 months.

But other tribes aren’t far behind in the quest to stay competitive for casino dollars, entertain customers and diversify reservation economies.

“I would project that a lot of (tribes) will try to expand in the same dimension as Tulalip,” said Vince Wilbur, head of gaming for the Swinomish Tribe of Skagit County.

Such plans are not new. As the casino business has grown throughout the state in recent years, tribes have begun to consider how they might make their locations more unusual and profitable.

The Upper Skagit Tribe, which Tuesday broke ground for its casino north of Burlington, Wash., may eventually expand to include a hotel and other facilities.

The Swinomish Tribe is talking about expanding its casino to include a hotel, marina and perhaps a conference center along the Swinomish Channel near La Conner, Wash.

The Hoh Tribe has signed a contract and is awaiting government approval for a casino that would center a destination resort on its 450-acre Olympic Peninsula reservation: a hotel, casino, restaurant, convention center and recreationalvehicle park on a bluff overlooking the Pacific Ocean.

“As more casinos come on board, each one has to have a different niche and has to attract a different market,” said Carrie Sutherland of the state Gambling Commission.

The Tulalip Tribes, among the first tribes to jump into the casino market in 1992, have capitalized on the reservation’s proximity to Seattle to generate a successful casino business.

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