ilani will resume gaming operations May 28

Enhanced health, safety protocols implemented to protect workers and guests

VBJ file photo

ilani, “the region’s premier gaming, dining, entertainment and meeting destination,” is reopening for business Thursday, May 28, at noon. To reopen the complex, a special blessing and smudging ceremony will take place at 10 a.m., complete with a ribbon cutting and the Cowlitz Drum Group. To maintain the health and safety of all ilani staff and guests, new protocols will be in place, adhering to guidelines established by the Centers for Disease Control and Washington health authorities.

“Since its opening, ilani has grown into an essential business for the Cowlitz Tribe, generating vital funds for basic government services such as health care, education, elder programs, infrastructure and human services. The casino revenue also funds services needed to address COVID-19 effects and has an impact on our surrounding Ridgefield community,” said Kara Fox-LaRose, ilani president and general manager. “We made the difficult decision to suspend operations in support of Gov. (Jay) Inslee’s stay-home order and in the interest of containing the COVID-19 pandemic. We are optimistic that we can help the community maintain its momentum flattening the curve, while implementing enhanced health protocols that safely allow our employees and guests to reconnect with all that ilani has to offer.”

Ceremony marks reopening

To commemorate the reopening of ilani, leaders of ilani and the Cowlitz Tribe will gather outside for a blessing and smudging ceremony at 10 a.m. on May 28, and the public is invited to join. Tanna Engdahl will confer a blessing on ilani, while Tribal Chairman William “Bill” Iyall will lead a smudging ceremony.

“In Native American cultures, a smudging ceremony is an opportunity to purify ourselves and our surroundings,” explained Iyall. “It is a powerful ritual and holds great significance as we move to resume gathering all walks of life through ilani’s doors, but within new constraints established for the well-being of all.”

A ribbon-cutting will signify the reopening, and after having their temperatures checked, guests will be led into ilani to the sound of drummers inside. ilani will resume its normal hours of operation, seven days a week, 24 hours a day.

Enhanced health protocols

The health and safety of ilani team members and guests remains a top priority. As the coronavirus pandemic has progressed, the Cowlitz Tribe has monitored activity and the latest guidance from the CDC and state health authorities to develop a reopening plan that would meet safety recommendations without significantly distracting from the guest experience. Guests and staff can expect the following social distancing and other measures at ilani:

  • Reduced and distanced seating at all restaurants and lounges
  • Powered off gaming machines for more physical distance between patrons
  • Signage with distance markers for food and beverage outlets and high-traffic areas
  • Entrances equipped with temperature checks
  • Face masks or face coverings for team members
  • Increased number of hand sanitizer and disinfectant wipes stations for guests and team members
  • Frequent sanitizing of all high-touch surfaces, following stringent cleaning procedures multiple times per day
  • Plexiglass barriers in key locations throughout the property, including table games

To protect the health of staff, ilani will continue to promote the CDC’s guidelines on personal hygiene such as frequent hand washing, practicing social distancing, and using hand sanitizer and disinfecting wipes as needed. Team members entering the property will have their temperatures checked, and anyone exhibiting a fever, or reporting other signs of illness, will be sent home and asked to seek a medical evaluation from their health care provider. 

About ilani

Located on a 156-acre site in Ridgefield, Wash., ilani, developed by the Cowlitz Tribe and Salishan-Mohegan, a partnership that includes Mohegan Sun, “one of the world’s foremost gaming and entertainment developers and operators, is the West Coast’s premier gaming, dining, entertainment and meeting destination.” With nearly 400,000 total square feet, ilani includes 100,000 square feet of gaming space with more than 2,500 slots and 75 gaming tables; 15 different restaurants, bars and retail outlets; and a 2,500-seat meeting and entertainment venue hosting nationally recognized performances. For more information, visit



Joanna Yorke is the managing editor of the Vancouver Business Journal. She has worked in the journalism field since 2010 after graduating from the Edward R. Murrow College of Communication at Washington State University in Pullman. Yorke worked at The Reflector Newspaper in Battle Ground for six years and then worked at and helped start