should grab a fat, red Crayola and circle Wednesday, June 20 on their calendar.
Thats the opening day of Odawa, the huge new casino project being built by the Little Traverse Bay Band of Odawa Indians in Petoskey.
When I say huge, I mean roughly 300,000 square feet with more than 50,000 square feet on the gaming floor.
We could put the entire Victories facility on the gaming floor (of the Odawa), says General Manager Barry Milligan, who gave us a 90-minute private tour of the new casino, which sits on a 98-acre site just across US-131, west of Victories.
Donning hard hats, we walked through the shell of the new $140 million gambling palace where 200 to 300 workers are busy every day getting the casino ready for that June 20 date.
Beautiful color tiles and impressive hardwood trusses lend a north woods beauty to the expansive gaming floor. The place is loaded with the latest high-tech gadgetry, including many plasma TVs, dozens of cameras and several security doors that are only accessible by swiping an employee badge that has an imbedded chip to allow access.
To keep all the gear working properly, Odawa boasts more than 1.4 million linear feet of wire.
We zip from room to room, up and down floors, even checking out Odawas five sets of restrooms, its 2,000-coat cloakroom and the state-of-the-art air transfer and ventilation system that will keep fresh air pumping through the building.
Milligan has the floor plan well memorized as a result of giving tours almost daily to groups that included tribal officials, community leaders, Victories workers and honchos from other casinos.
Of particular interest to gamblers will be the Odawas large gaming floor that will feature some 1,500 slot and video poker machines, 30 table games and six poker tables. All of the machines will be Ticket-In-Ticket-Out and several automated kiosks will cash the tickets.
There will also be a high limit area with gaming tables and slots, plus a special high limit lounge for special players.
By comparison, Victories has 1,100 slot and video poker machines, 14 table games and three poker tables.
When arriving at Odawa, motorists can park in a new two-deck parking deck, then protected from winter winds make their way through a wide, comfortable tunnel to reach the gaming floor. This walkway will prove popular in winter.
If you work up an appetite during a gaming session, Odawa will offer three distinct dining choices:
The Sage will be a fine dining restaurant dominated by a 16-foot-tall wine tower. This will seat 120 and be true, fine dining, explains Milligan.
A spacious buffet, Waasnode, will feature five different food presentation areas, plus an omelette station and wood-fired pizza oven. It will seat 330 diners. Nothing north of Detroit has a buffet like this, says Milligan.
The Copper Café, sort of a Starbucks on steroids, will be available for those who want a coffee and a quick nosh. Itll be open 22 hours a day for early morning or late night light dining.
One of Odawas most impressive drawing cards will be the Ozone night club which will feature two bars with flair bartenders, several plasma TVs, eight cozy pods and a stage for small acts or DJs. A bank of cameras will capture the action on the dance floor, then project it on the plasmas and the creamy white walls and ceiling of the Ozone.
Theres nothing like it in the state, says Milligan, a veteran casino manager who has directed Victories since coming to Petoskey in 2005 from New Mexico.
Victories has about 500 workers and that number is expected to double at Odawa. The band has held three job fairs that have attracted many applicants, according to Milligan. New dealers will be able to learn their craft at Odawas in-house training area, one of the few such facilities in Michigan.
Even with all of the construction under way, Milligan explains that Odawa is the first phase of a plan that is expected to eventually include a hotel and more. Odawa has been designed with expansion in mind.
We are on time and on budget, he says with a smile. Were all working hard toward that June 20 opening.
Country group Sawyer Brown will rock the Little River Casino on March 17.
Everclear will perform at the Kewadin Casino in Sault Ste. Marie on March 24.
Tyrese Gibsons Alter Ego Tour is stopping at The Soaring Eagle Casino on March 29.
The Soaring Eagle will also host legendary Motown diva Diana Ross on April 13.
Once again, The Leelanau Sands Casino is hosting World Series of Poker (WSOP) satellite tourneys every Friday in the poker room. Top finishers from each Fridays
$40 satellite earn entry into the casinos WSOP super satellite on June 2 with the winner of that going to Las Vegas to play in the WSOP.
To mark the opening of their new hotel rooms, Little River Casino is offering current and new Players Club members a $79 room rate with a free breakfast through March 31. If youre not a member when you stay, sign up and receive $15 in free play. Also through March 31, one lucky guest is chosen each night to receive a free night stay.
Turtle Creek Casino has started its Million Dollar Spin promotion. Two winners are drawn daily every hour from noon to 5 p.m. Winners will spin a wheel for prizes. This runs through May 26.
Words of Gaming Wisdom
Lady Luck favors the backbone, not the wishbone. Doyle Brunson
On a Roll is a new monthly column
in the Express. If you have a question about Northern Michigan casinos or would like an event listed, email Al Parker at HYPERLINK mailto:email@example.com firstname.lastname@example.org.