Idaho Casino Celebrates 25th Anniversary

A bingo parlor that started on a windblown field in northern Idaho a quarter century ago has grown into an economic engine for the Coeur d’Alene tribe. The success story of the Coeur d’Alene Casino Resort Hotel is caught in its symbol of a horse and rider looking toward the sky.

Idaho Casino Celebrates 25th Anniversary

The Coeur d’Alene Casino Resort Hotel is celebrating a quarter century of doing business in Northern Idaho and bettering the lives of many members of the tribe that gives the resort its name.

The symbol of the casino is an optimistic horse and rider pointing a staff towards the heavens. It was deliberately created as the opposite of the famous Trail of Tears image of the warrior and horse looking down. Instead the warrior gazes towards the open sky in hope and strength.

That symbol goes hand in hand with the casino’s slogan, “Winning is just the beginning.”

During the 25th anniversary celebration the casino will give away $25,000.

The resort began as a bingo hall on land that the tribe had long considered its home. As Tribal Chairman Chief Allan said to the Coeur d’Alene Press: “This place took care of us for generations and generations,” adding “It’s going to take care of us for generations more.”

The first step in the economic transformation of the tribe was the opening of the high-stakes bingo hall that could seat about 1,000. It opened in what one tribal member recalls, was “a field outside of Worley. It was a wetland. There were ducks floating around. It seemed pretty silly at the time.”

It had 93 employees, many of who had never held jobs before.

Today’s casino CEO Francis SiJohn told the Press: “My first memories were that it was amazing to see our tribal people working and contributing toward our future. There was a buzz and it wasn’t just with the tribal members. The community and the vendors were excited, too. New relationships were built and established amongst community members, other businesses and with other tribes. Bingo was held every day, although the biggest days were on the weekends.”

Inspired by what other area tribes had been doing with bingo, the tribe first unsuccessfully tried to get a nearly $3 million loan from banks, most of which didn’t understand the business model. So instead they used a federal loan program with a 15-year note—which was paid off three years later.

Three years after the bingo hall opened video bingo machines were introduced and the casino quickly took off. Since that time the Coeur d’Alene Casino has been expanded four times, built a hotel, added dining and lounges and the Circling Raven Golf Course. It now has about 100,000 square feet of gaming space. It employs more than 1,000 and has a 300-room hotel.

Five years ago, U.S. Highway 95 was rerouted, making it easier to get to the casino.

SiJohn adds, “We did not know that we would have what we have today. However, I’m proud to say that the Coeur d’Alene Tribe is known to be savvy business people.” The CEO emphases that the main purpose of the casino has always been to improve things for the tribe and its surroundings.

Since the bingo hall opened the casino through the tribe has given in excess of $33.3 million to state schools. In the tribal state gaming compact the tribe insisted that 5 percent of net profits would go to education.

The casino business has created jobs, improved tribal pride and morale and given the tribe a tool to achieve self-sufficiency.

SiJohn declares, “I am always conscientious of where we started from and why we got into gaming. Long ago, our ancestors were cognizant of the perils they faced. They knew they had to protect and preserve the Tribe’s lands, waters, culture and identity for the next generations to come. They did a good job; the Coeur d’Alene Tribe is alive and thriving.”