New Casino Opening Causes Mayhem, Mass Traffic Jams

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  • Grand opening of casino causes 8-mile backup on major highway Monday morning
  • Lack of parking spaces resulted in logjam
  • Raucous crowd chanted “Open! Open” during early morning ceremonies
  • Two major cities affected

The Ilani (ay-lon-ay) Casino might not be a household name yet but its grand opening Monday sure made one region of the US take notice, maybe not in a good way either.

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That’s because the grand opening resulted in massive traffic backups of eight miles on northbound Interstate 5 just outside the city of Portland, Oregon.

The Washington State Department of Transportation says all of the casino's 3,000 parking spaces were taken, forcing traffic to back up onto the freeway.

The casino itself is located in Washington State just 25 miles north of Downtown Portland near La Center, Washington.    It is now the city’s closest major gambling venue.

Oregon Live described the mass hysteria during the morning ceremonies.  

The crowd chanted "Open! Open!" as leaders of the Cowlitz Indian Tribe (casino operators) and casino officials made their opening day presentations. When the doors opened at 10:15 a.m., guests streamed past a bank of tribal drummers to explore the gleaming building or find their way to slot machines, gaming tables and restaurants.

Highways leading in and out of the city of Vancouver, Washington were also impacted by the casino grand opening with the junction of interstates 5 and 205 affected.

"We're working with the operators to try to mitigate any residual effects on the freeway," said Bart Treece, a spokesman for the Washington State Department of Transportation. "We're going to continue to work with them to see what can be done to avoid these kinds of issues."

The new 368,000-square-foot casino with its 2,500 slot machines and 75 table games also features video terminals that could negatively impact the Oregon State Lottery as Washington does not have a state lottery and video terminals so close to the two states' border are likely to provide big cash cows for the lottery.

Oregon Live notes that the Oregon Lottery estimated it could take a $110 annual hit in video sales, representing a $72 million loss in tax revenues for government services, Oregon's Office of Economic Analysis reported last November.

Ilani will employ some 1,000 workers, and another 500 will work for its  retail and food vendors, according to a casino spokeswoman.

Those commenting on the Oregon Live website Monday afternoon were far from pleased.

One reader wrote:

Amazing how many people are not going to work, but they are going to the casino instead.  LOL.  Just incredible.  Throw your money away!

Another wrote:

Oregon has yet to learn that it's Location, Location, Location and proximity to customers & consumers that makes a successful business venture.  Logistics - roads - plays a big part in that, whether the business relies upon getting products to customers, or getting customers to their location.  Time spent stuck in traffic, or on s-l-o-w public transportation takes money away from the individual, business, and inhibits government revenue.

It remains to be seen whether the traffic jams will continue beyond Monday’s grand opening.

- Aaron Goldstein,


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