Washington Tribe to Fly Gamblers From Canada to Tacoma Casino Resorts

By | May 12, 2022

Next year, two Washington tribal casinos plan to begin air service for gamblers in nearby Canada.

Washington tribal casinos Kenmore Air
Kenmore Air and Puyallup tribal officials stand in front of a seaplane. Beginning next year, Kenmore will run flights from Canada to the tribe’s Washington casinos in Tacoma and Rife. (Image: Puyallup Tribe of Indians)

The Puyallup Tribe, which operates Emerald Queen Casinos in Tacoma and Fife, is partnering with Kenmore Air for regional seaplane service to and from the South Puget Sound. Kenmore Air is a Washington-based regional airline that operates scheduled and charter seaplane and landplane routes.

Set to launch in the second half of 2023, the Puyallup-Kenmore partnership will allow Canadians to hop aboard a seaplane in Victoria, British Columbia, or the San Juan Islands, and fly direct to Tacoma. The Puyallup Tribe plans to build a seaplane dock and small terminal along Ruston Way in Tacoma on land it acquired last September.

No one else in the Sound has an operation like this,” Matt Wadhwani, CFO of the Puyallup Tribe, told the Seattle Times.

The tribe said The Ram, a waterfront restaurant on the land it purchased, will continue operating in its current establishment. A new restaurant inside the seaport terminal will additionally be developed and opened in time for the first casino flight.

Supporting $400M Investment

The Puyallup Tribe owns and operates two tribal casinos on its sovereign land in the Tacoma region. The Fife Emerald Queen Casino has been in operation since 1996.

Today, the casino offers 2,300 slot machines and a sportsbook. The property additionally features a 103-room hotel and 25,000 square feet of customizable meeting and event space.

The tribe’s casino in Tacoma, however, is much more the reason for the seaplane partnership with Kenmore Airlines. Emerald Queen Casino Tacoma opened in May of 2020 amid the pandemic at a cost of $400 million.

The casino features 2,100 slots, 60 table games, 155-room hotel, six restaurants and bars, and 250-seat sportsbook. The resort additionally has an indoor concert space with the capacity to seat more than 1,800 attendees.

Keeping the casino and resort’s operations busy with adequate visitors was made most difficult amid the pandemic, as the health crisis put conventions and leisure travel on hold. With life seemingly back to a sense of normal, Puyallup tribal officials want to give Canadians and San Juan Islands residents a more expedited way to visit the new Emerald Queen Casino in Tacoma.

Wadhwani said the seaplane service will provide the tribe with a “huge population that we can tap into.” Emerald Queen Fife and Tacoma are only a little more than two miles apart.

Service Details

The tribe did not disclose whether guests who utilize the seaplane to the Emerald Queen casinos will be charged airfare. But regional casinos across the nation have long offered cheap or free transportation to their properties.

For example, Wind Creek Bethlehem in Eastern Pennsylvania greatly targets the New York City/North Jersey market. The casino was developed and owned by Las Vegas Sands until it sold the integrated resort in 2018 to the Poarch Band of Creek Indians for $1.3 billion. It offers bus riders a nearly a free trip from New York’s Port Authority Bus Terminal in Manhattan.

Wind Creek’s casino shuttle service costs $50 roundtrip. But upon arrival at the resort, passengers are afforded $45 in free slot play.

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