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Friday, January 6, 2006 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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Stillaguamish announce plans for casino expansion

Times Snohomish County bureau

The Stillaguamish Tribe plans to expand its Angel of the Winds Casino in the coming year, capitalizing on an operation that has pumped millions of dollars into the small tribe.

The casino, north of Arlington in rural Snohomish County, will grow from about 22,000 square feet with 455 video slot machines to about 37,000 square feet and 675 machines.

It employs about 250 people and expects to add about 75.

"We're a small casino getting to be a medium-sized one. I don't ever see us getting to be a Tulalip," said General Manager Dave Seufert, referring to the Tulalip Tribes' prominent casino off Interstate 5 at Quil Ceda Village, about 11 miles to the south.

Stillaguamish Executive Director Eddie Goodridge Jr. said the move is less an expansion than a move toward the tribe's original plan to build a 45,000-square-foot casino. Those plans were scaled back when development costs were higher than anticipated and an initial lender backed out of the project.

Angel of the Winds opened in October 2004 and despite its rural location has come close to generating the $30 million annually that the tribe had projected.

"The revenues are consistent with our initial financial plans," Goodridge said. He declined to give specific figures.

The tribe is considering preliminary architectural drawings for the casino expansion and hasn't completed the details. In addition to adding floor space, the plans call for a buffet restaurant. The casino has a snack bar now.

Projected costs for the expansion are $6 million to $10 million.

The casino generated controversy when it was proposed in 2002. Arlington and Snohomish County officials objected to the rural location, and some tribal members protested plans to demolish about 30 homes to make room for the casino, which had to be built on tribal land.

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The 175-member tribe hoped to eventually move the casino to a more visible location just off Interstate 5 in Smokey Point, but it didn't receive the necessary support from state and federal officials, Goodridge said.

The casino also was initially opposed by neighbors worried about traffic, lights and noise. Kristin Banfield, Arlington's assistant city administrator, said she isn't aware of any significant problems now.

"We've responded to about two aid-car requests a month. That's really it," Banfield said.

Al Gagnon, a casino regular who lives about a half-mile from Angel of the Winds, said tribal police patrol the area frequently and many of the feared negative impacts don't seem to have materialized.

"I give them an A-plus," he said. "They've been very sensitive to the neighborhood and very concerned about being a good neighbor."

Lynn Thompson: 425-745-7807 or lthompson@seattletimes.com

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