The Scoop from the Gaming Floor
What’s new at local casinos of the North
By Al Parker | Sept. 3, 2022
Game time doesn’t just happen on the field…it happens at poker tables and at slot machines too. We asked the gaming experts of the North what’s new at their properties, what has changed in the last few years, what to look forward to this fall, and how they are connecting with the community by supporting nonprofits or other charitable endeavors. The takeaway: Between major renovations and hot new games, northern Michigan’s casinos are on a roll.
Turtle Creek Hotel and Casino | Williamsburg
What’s New: The big buzz at Turtle Creek this fall is not at the casino, but at the attached hotel.
“We are excited to offer our guests an all-new hotel this fall, featuring a new lobby design and complete update of all 137 guest rooms and suites,” says General Manager Johnny Barrientoz.
The renovation, which combines understated luxury with modern amenities and Native American-accented interiors, has begun and is expected to be completed in mid-November. “In the meantime, we are directing our guests to our sister property, Grand Traverse Resort and Spa, a five-minute shuttle ride away,” adds Barrientoz.
What Has Changed: As a result of the COVID-19 masking mandates, the casino became non-smoking and has continued that policy at the request of guests. “We’ve also realigned our sports betting with Caesar’s Sportsbooks, which has been well received by our players,” says Barrientoz.
What’s Happening: “We’ve added over $145,000 in cash and prizes during our Hammers, Hard Hats, and Cash promotions on weekends Sept. 9-25, including top prizes of $5,000 and $10,000 every Friday and Saturday night and $100 Mobil Gas Card drawings on Sunday afternoons,” says Barrientoz. “We’re also giving away 30 $100-300 Mobil Gas Cards on Sept. 28 during Full Tank Frenzy.”
What Matters: The casino’s “Cash In On Kindness” guest change collection has raised over $100,000 for more than 25 area nonprofit agencies. “The program, which began as a result of the national coin shortage, offers guests the opportunity to collectively donate their change to make a change locally,” explains Barrientoz. “It has continued to be successful each month for the last two and a half years.”
Leelanau Sands Casino | Peshawbestown
What’s New: “We’re always adding new games among our guest favorites to keep the excitement rolling, and the new IGT Prosperity Link bank with multi-level progressive machines has been popular with our guests, along with our weekly dining and bingo features,” says General Manager Jesse Ward.
What Has Changed: Like Turtle Creek, casino officials opted to promote a healthier experience at the outset of the pandemic, instituting a non-smoking environment and continuing that as a result of guest preferences.
What’s Happening: This month, the casino will feature more than $30,000 in Leelanau Loot cash and prizes every Sunday afternoon, with players winning $300 to $3,000 in cash drawings. Each winner will also receive a pizza maker prize package worth more than $75.
“We also added a 'Halfway to St. Patrick’s Day' prize patrol where 17 players win $300 each,” says Ward. “And [we’ll have] cash drawings during our Michigan Native American Celebration on Sept. 23. Our Fall Euchre Tournament is scheduled for Nov. 5, which is a local favorite.”
What Matters: “In honor of National American Bald Eagle Day, we were able to donate to the Skegemog Raptor Center for the protection and preservation of the migizii [eagle in Anishinaabek] to encourage not only surviving, but thriving in our area,” says Ward. “In the Native culture, the eagle is one of our most revered and respected beings in creation. It is the carrier and messenger of the Anishinaabe people that links our prayers to the Creator. It was truly an honor to help them with their efforts.”
Odawa Casino | Petoskey
What’s Happening: Cher tribute artist Lisa McClowry’s portrayal of the Goddess of Pop, “The Beat Goes On,” is set for Sept. 16.
The Odawa poker room also draws plenty of action during its monthly poker tournament held on the third Sunday of each month (Sept. 18). This is one of the few live poker rooms left in northern Michigan and attracts players from across the region.
What Matters: Odawa Casino partnered with Toys for Tots last year to create a special holiday season for local children and families in need. With a poker tournament and the ongoing Spare Change program, the casino was able to provide almost $4,000, plus more gifts than they ever had before.
Little River Casino Resort | Manistee
What’s New: After opening in 1999 with 600 slot machines, Little River has grown steadily and now offers almost 1,000 slots and video poker games. New games are being added regularly, including the exciting All Aboard, Mayan Chief, and China Shores.
With college football and the NFL kicking off their seasons, guests can now do more than just watch their favorite teams at the River Rock Sportsbook & Grill: They can bet on them. With betting windows in the restaurant and 12 new 24-hour kiosks in the restaurant and on the gaming floor, you can bet on everything from football, baseball, and basketball to hockey, tennis, and golf.
What’s Happening: On Sept. 17, the casino will host comedian-actor-singer and writer Rodney Carrington. REO Speedwagon will perform in the casino’s 1,600 seat showroom on Oct. 15.