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Longtime La Center card room closes as new casino gets ready to open

A new casino named ilani is going up in Ridgefield. It’s boasting lots of attractions and more than 100,000 square feet of gaming space.

RIDGEFIELD, Wash. -- A new casino named ilani is going up in Ridgefield. It’s boasting lots of attractions and more than 100,000 square feet of gaming space.

It hasn’t even opened yet, but it’s already getting some pushback.

John Bockmier, a spokesperson for New Phoenix Casino down the road in La Center, said New Phoenix was forced to close this past weekend because of ilani.

In quiet La Center, at Stonehill Coffee House, owner Eric Steinberg is waiting and watching as construction of the new ilani casino is nearing completion.

“I've never lived this close to a large casino before, so it'll be interesting to see what happens,” said Steinberg.

Ilani is big, taking up 368,000 total square feet. It’ll have 3,000 parking spaces, 2,500 slots, 80 gaming tables, and 15 different restaurants. Renderings on the ilani website show brightly lit and colorful spaces.

But on Sunday the New Phoenix Casino closed up shop after more than 25 years in business. It's the second card room to close in La Center within the last couple years. The first was Chips Casino right across the street. Now there are two card rooms left, the Palace Casino and The Last Frontier Casino.

Bockmier said there are a variety of reasons that New Phoenix had to close. Chief among those reasons is ilani.

“The labor pool of skilled people to deal games is not great in this community and we've had a number of people who are leaving to go to ilani and staffing has become extremely difficult,” said Bockmier.

On top of that, he said the construction associated with ilani has made it hard for card room customers to get to them. He said there’s also been reduced business over the years.

La Center gets about $3.1 million every a year from the card rooms in town. After the card room closures, a La Center city councilor said there's talk about possibly tightening the budget.

But with 4.5 million visitors expected every year at ilani, business owners in La Center are waiting for the trickle down.

“More people coming out of town checking out the local stores,” said Steinberg.

It was announced on Tuesday that Michael Jordan's Steakhouse, as well as Line & Lure Seafood Kitchen and Tap are both restaurants that will call ilani home.

Kara Fox-LaRose, the president and general manager of ilani also said they plan to give two percent of their net revenue to Clark County and the surrounding area.

Ilani is expected to open sometime in April.