********************** Kewadin Casinos celebrates 20 years as a community leader, economic powerhouse, and top employer
Sault Ste. Marie, MI - Kewadin Casinos Hotel & Convention Center in Sault Ste. Marie will celebrate 20 years of success this November.
In celebration of Kewadin's anniversary, the casino will host a special promotion giving away over $50,000 on Saturday November 5.
Along with the cash give-away, old school rocker M.C. Hammer will be performing in the Dream Maker Theater on Friday November 4.
Owned and operated by the Sault Ste. Marie Tribe of Chippewa Indians, Kewadin now has locations in five northern Michigan communities including Sault Ste. Marie, St. Ignace, Hessel, Manistique, and Christmas.
The casinos employ approximately 1,300 people with an annual payroll of over $30 million.
Last year, the five Upper Peninsula casinos drew over four million customers from around the state and country to their facilities.
When Kewadin Casinos opened in November of 1985, it was a one-room blackjack house employing 80 people.
Now, the casinos have approximately 482,000 square feet of facility space which accommodates seven restaurants and delis, one 320 room hotel, a 25,000 square foot convention facility, eight lounges, and four gift shops.
Over 90,000 square feet of this space is earmarked for gaming which includes 2,000 slot machines and over 60 table games.
"It is amazing to see how much we have grown over the years," General Manager Steve Sprecker said. "It is truly awesome."
Sprecker began his employment with the casino in 1986 as a blackjack dealer.
The significant growth of the casino organization has benefited the Sault area and eastern Upper Peninsula in many ways.
Since the time Kewadin opened in 1985, it has grown to become one of the largest employers in the area and has helped to improve the overall economic climate of the areas.
Chippewa County alone has seen its unemployment rate drop from 11.3 percent in 1990 to nine percent in 2004.
Other communities hosting a Kewadin Casino have also seen this trend including Mackinac County whose unemployment rate is now 10 percent compared to 14.3 percent in 1990.
The economic impact the casino has had on the local area is astounding.
Since 1986, the businesses and government services of the Sault Ste. Marie Tribe of Chippewa Indians, including Kewadin Casinos, have pumped nearly $4.4 billion into the State of Michigan, according to a 2002 study by KPMG, one of the world's most respected accounting and business consulting companies.
From 1986 – 2000, the Tribe's statewide economic impact totaled $3.5 billion.
The study also showed economic impact on a multi-county level, which included Alger, Cheboygan, Chippewa, Delta, Dickinson, Emmet, Luce, Mackinac, Marquette, Menominee, and Schoolcraft.
During the 1986 – 2000 time frame, the multi-county area studied in this analysis had an economic impact of $2.2 billion.
In 2001 alone, the tribe's economic impact for this multi-county area totaled nearly $280.5 million.
Not only has Kewadin impacted the economic standing of the state through the employment and expansion projects, but also as a community supporter.
Kewadin Casinos continually supports local events and fundraisers, and assists in campaigns to show support for local veterans, children, 4-H, and other caring programs.
Over $140,000 was given to organizations such as these in 2004 alone.
In addition, during 2004, Kewadin distributed over $1.9 million in two-percent funds to local governmental agencies supporting local fire and police organizations, road construction, and school development.
To date, the casinos have awarded $20.4 million in two- percent distributions.
"Locally, we can all see the benefits of having a business this size in the Eastern Upper Peninsula," Tony Goetz, interim chief operating officer said. "From employee wages, to construction projects, to revenue that we put back into the community in the form of two-percent contributions or donations, the impact can be seen and we are proud of that."
Native American gaming is a movement that is growing by leaps and bounds each year.
In the early 1980s, there were only five casinos in Michigan.
That number increased over the past decade and the current casino count is 19.
Nationally, there are 222 tribes operating 356 gaming facilities in 30 states.
The native gaming market took in approximately $16.2 billion in revenues nationally in 2003, an increase of 12 percent compared to 2002.
Comparatively, non-native casinos brought in more revenue at $26.5 billion, but only posted an increase of 1.4 percent compared to their 2002 numbers.
The Michigan casino market has steadily increased its revenue since the mid-1990s with market dollars growing from $206.5 million in 1994 to $971 million in 2004, up $1.1 million over 2003.
Since the early days of the casino boom, all of the casinos have had challenges of marketing and expanding their business to be better than the next.
Kewadin Casino facilities have expanded a number of times in order to sustain customer flow and expectations.
The Sault Ste. Marie facility expanded in 1988, 1992, 1993, 1994, and 1997.
Kewadin's St. Ignace facility expanded six times from 1992 to 1996, Hessel in 1995, Manistique in 1997, and Christmas in 2001.
In order to serve guests better and to remain a market leader, Kewadin Casinos initiated a development plan in November 2003 aimed at providing guests with updated gaming facilities and attractions.
The plan included remodeling existing properties and, in certain instances, developing entirely new facilities.
Renovation work started at the Sault Ste. Marie facility in early 2004.
Nearly all areas of the Sault casino has been renovated including gaming rooms, the "Trail" area, and some hotel rooms.
In addition, many improvements have been made to satisfy customer needs including the addition of popular slot games, a poker room, the upgrading of slot machine systems – including new ticket-in ticket-out machines, and upgraded sound equipment in the Dream Maker's Theater.
In early 2006, the Dream Catcher restaurant will also be remodeled.
Construction on a brand new casino complex in St. Ignace began in May 2004.
This $30 million project is expected to be complete in 2006.
The new facility will consist of over 127,000 square feet, including a new casino with 800 slot machines, 26 table games, 20 Keno seats, a buffet/restaurant seating 225, an entertainment lounge seating 125, a sports bar, an 81-room three story hotel, and additional parking.
In 1984, the Sault Ste. Marie Tribe of Chippewa Indians Board of Directors voted to open a gaming facility.
Kewadin's rapid success has provided funds to expand the Tribe's business holdings from one to six casinos (five Upper Peninsula properties and Greektown Casino in Detroit) and take ownership of 15 non-gaming enterprises.