Shooting Star Casino celebrates its 20th birthday
This month, the Shooting Star Casino, Hotel and Event Center is celebrating 20 years -- and it's doing it in style.
Shooting Star is doing everything from Ford Escape giveaways to cash prizes, big-name entertainers to food and drink specials.
But the more notable success is the importance the casino has brought to the White Earth Reservation and the surrounding area.
"The Shooting Star Casino, Hotel and Event Center has been a significant benefit to economy of the northwestern part of Minnesota. Not only the White Earth Reservation, but the overall economy," said White Earth Chairwoman Erma Vizenor. "Our gaming industry is very important to us."
An elected tribal leader since 1996, Vizenor said she has seen the growth, and the importance, of the Shooting Star over the years.
There are off-site gaming sites, thanks to the casino, and Shooting Star renovated The Depot in Detroit Lakes and now runs a coffee shop in the building, which serves as the hub for the tribal transportation system.
"I see a great development for Shooting Star, and I'm very proud of it," she said.
According to the 2010 census, she added, Mahnomen County is the poorest county in Minnesota.
"With the Shooting Star providing most jobs -- good paying jobs with good benefits -- we are a tremendous boost to the economy."
She said that although the rural location of Shooting Star doesn't net the profits that metro casinos do, it's still a huge success for White Earth.
Profits from the casino support tribal infrastructure. Profits also go toward the transit system, the community college, public safety and elder and youth services.
Profits also go toward the bonds to pay off the tribal administration building.
"Those are necessary functions of government," Vizenor said.
History of the casino
The Shooting Star Casino opened in November of 1991 in a temporary metal building.
The actual casino opened six months later in May of 1992.
"The importance of having a temporary gaming facility was to start making money right away," Vizenor said.
In 2001, Shooting Star added on a $30 million 145,300-square-foot addition.
The building consists of 72,055 square feet of casino -- with 1,000 slot machines, 12 blackjack tables, 365-seat bingo hall and poker selections -- a 15,000-square-foot concert venue, 30,000 square feet of event space and a 386-room hotel.
There is also a spa, gift shop and several restaurants and bars.
"In the late 1990s, we started to plan the addition of the event center. That was a $32 million project, which we paid off," Vizenor said. "I've seen gaming grow and develop," she added.
The event center portion, she said, is very important because of the conference space and performers that are "second to none in this area."
Future plans for Shooting Star include the development of an 18-hole golf course, the expansion of its existing Manitok Mall and more.
The Shooting Star complex employs about 1,000 people, and wages and benefits account for about $27 million each year. It is the largest economic resource in the region, and especially on the reservation.
"Shooting Star is White Earth's most successful initiative to date, contributing approximately $7 million to $8 million per year to the tribe's economy and to the northwest region of Minnesota," said Shooting Star spokesperson Claire Bloxom.
The casino is celebrating its 20th birthday in style: Every Sunday in May, the casino has been and will be giving away a 2012 Ford Escape. During the "20 Drawings by 20 Days" giveaway, two gamers will become winners every hour from noon to 10 p.m., Monday through Thursday.
There are 24 new KONAMI games on the slot floor.
The casino is also hosting a 20th Anniversary Bingo Bonanza Blowout and various table game deals throughout the month. Saturdays in May are Customer Appreciation Days with strolling entertainment throughout the day, including drink specials, free beads and free food from 11 a.m.-3 p.m.
At the Mustang Lounge, customers who purchase a 20th Anniversary mug will get discounts on refills for two months.
"Two for $20" buffet specials will take place on Thursdays at Traditions, "Two for $20" Ribeye dinners will be served all month long at Whispering Winds, and 2ONE8 will be serving Bleu Cheese Filet Mignons for only $20.
Visitors can also receive 20 percent off spa services from massages, manicures, pedicures and facials at Sereniitee Spa.
Standard rooms at the hotel are also offered at $49.95 between Sunday and Thursday.
At the casino itself, all one has to do is "check in" on Facebook on his or her smart phone and show the phone at the Star Rewards Center to be entered to win prizes, such as a new iPad.
Throughout May, the event center has lined up award-winning musicians, too. All concert attendees can enter for the chance to take home cash or the grand prize, an autographed guitar, after the show.
Upcoming shows include Lynyrd Skynyrd on May 18 and Randy Travis on May 25.