10 things: ilani Casino Resort

The $510 million casino from the Cowlitz Tribe, the ilani Casino Resort, officially opened its doors to the public this morning. To celebrate the opening, here are ten fun facts about the casino:

Courtesy ilani
Courtesy ilani

Creative cards

All of ilani’s face cards portray Cowlitz tribal culture and history. For example, the ace card features traditional Cowlitz canoe paddles, which were made with blades shaped in a rounded and elongated diamond. The card illustrations were created by an artist who is a member of The Cowlitz Tribe.

Trump trivia

In 2001, the Trump organization showed interest in partnering with the Cowlitz Tribe on a casino/resort. According to ilani President and GM Kara Fox-LaRose, Donald Trump “loved the site,” but the Cowlitz ultimately chose a different direction and decided to work with the Mohegan Tribe.

Get your game on

The casino’s 100,000-square-foot gaming floor has 2,500 slot machines and 75 gaming tables featuring blackjack, roulette, midi baccarat, craps and pai gow poker. If you don’t know how to play a particular game, ilani staff will walk you through it.

What’s in a name?

ilani is pronounced “ay-lah-nay” and means “sing” in the Cowlitz language.

Look up!

lights hLong horizontal lights inside the casino represent dragging baskets that The Cowlitz would put behind their boats to catch fish. Chandeliers represent the hats that The Cowlitz wear – serving as both a shade from the elements, and as a basket used to forage for berries.

“His Airness”

The Michael Jordan’s Stake House restaurant inside ilani is one of only four locations in the world. The next closest location is in Chicago. Inside each restaurant is a table for Michael Jordan. A spokesperson for ilani said Jordan looks forward to visiting the Ridgefield location, but has not set a date yet for his first visit. Word has it that if someone is seated at his table when he arrives, his practice is to buy that party’s dinner and drinks.

Testing, testing, 123…

Courtesy Rose and Thorn
Courtesy Rose and Thorn

Shawn Ellis, founder and CEO of Rose & Thorn and Longhouse, two full-service restaurants located inside ilani, established a test kitchen in La Center. The test kitchen allows Ellis’ chefs to experiment with new menu items before bringing them to visitors at ilani.


Sticking with the food theme, one of ilani’s 15 different eateries is Smashburger, a Denver-based franchise that’s growing rapidly. At Smashburger, hamburgers are “smashed” to order – a process the company says locks in the best flavor. The ilani location is the first Smashburger in the Pacific Northwest.

If you built it, they will come

trafficOfficials at ilani are projecting approximately 4.5 million visitors per year, or more than an average of 12,000 people a day. The casino may have hit that mark within their first hour of business, based on Monday morning’s traffic commute…

What’s next?

In late fall, ilani will introduce a 2,500-seat meeting and entertainment venue offering flexible meeting space and nationally-recognized performances. A new hotel is also part of the resort’s future strategy, eventually connecting to the southeast side of the building. The land across from the resort may be developed into an outdoor shopping area with restaurants and retail, though no plans have been finalized.

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