Lucky Eagle Casino and Great Wolf Lodge: Local Entertainment and Employment


To Rodney Youckton, the Lucky Eagle Casino is more than people having fun playing one of the casino’s 850 slot machines.

It’s even more than customers watching concerts or comedy shows that’s part of the casino’s weekly entertainment.

It’s also about offering jobs, employment.

Since the Lucky Eagle opened in June 1995, it has added the Eagles Landing Hotel and four restaurants and now employs 700.

“Previous to the casino, there was a lot of reliance on the government and grants and whatever funding sources that were available for the Chehalis tribe,” said Youckton, assistant general manager of Lucky Eagle for the past seven years. “You saw high unemployment. With the casino coming, now more of our tribal members have good cars, insurance. They have a good feeling of self-worth. They have a career here.”

The Lucky Eagle now has four restaurants – the Grand Buffet, Scatter Creek Grill, Prime Rib and Steakhouse and the Sidewalk Deli. The Prime Rib and Steakhouse is considered by customers to be one of the best steak and seafood restaurants between Portland and Seattle.

The casino continues to expand its hotel arrangements. The Eagles Landing hotel is currently adding 92 rooms, giving it 162 rooms total when finished. The Great Wolf Lodge, a new hotel that offers water slides and other family entertainment, has 350 rooms.

“It’s been a big shot in the arm for local people to have employment,” Youckton said. “It’s given them regular paychecks every two weeks. Of course, it also helps the local economy as well.”

So, when Youckton watches customers play craps, roulette or black jack, he also sees the benefits of a regular paycheck for the employees. He sees a family sitting around a table, eating dinner because of that paycheck. He also sees home mortgage being paid each month.

“From 1995 to today, we have had an opportunity of spreading employment from Grays Harbor, Lewis County and Thurston County,” Youckton said. “It’s created opportunities for the tribe.”

Service is a primary goal of the Lucky Eagle, which was given a Thurston Chamber and EDC Business of the Year award. A happy customer is someone who returns.

“For us to be that fun experience, that memorable experience, we have to be able to help them in whatever way we can,” said John Setterstrom, the executive director of the Lucky Eagle Casino since it opened 16 years ago.

One way Lucky Eagle tries to assure that goal is every Monday is Senior Monday. Anyone 55 and older receives a lunch buffet for just $5.95 and a dinner for $7.95. There is a $5 free play offer and a complimentary shrimp cocktail.

All along, the Lucky Eagle Casino has also connected to the community by volunteering. From the casino’s directors to the card dealers, there has been an attempt to be part of community projects. The staff has partners with area chambers of commerce, Hands on Museum, Big Brothers and Big Sisters, Boys and Girls Club, YWCA and the Red Cross. From the start, Setterstrom has emphasized the importance of being apart of community programs.

“It’s an opportunity to be involved with the community,” Youckton said. “We’re not here taking money away from everybody. We’re giving back to the communities. We’re helping those in need. We’re not the evil business that’s clamoring for everyone’s dollars. We’re hoping to help make a difference with nonprofits to be successful.”

The Lucky Eagle employees recently raised $50,000 for United Way.

“Some of those people who donated were making $10 an hour,” Setterstrom said. “Every one from the directors to the casino workers are on boards working in the community.”

It’s that “personal culture” that Setterstrom said sets Lucky Eagle apart from other casinos.

“Why are people driving these great distances to our casino?” Setterstrom said. “It’s not because we have different slot machines. It’s because we have different people.”

The customer’s experience isn’t just about winning. While that’s a big part of it, Setterstrom said it’s also about having fun and getting to know the employees – the dealers at the card tables and the clerks at the restaurant counters.

“That’s what’s driving a lot of our business,” Setterstrom said. “The frontline people.”

With the growing success of the Lucky Eagle Casino, the business has continued to expand. The Chehalis tribe enterprises now include the Eagles Landing Hotel, the Chehalis RV Park, three convenience stores, the Burger Claim Restaurant, and, most recently, the Great Wolf Lodge.

“Our tagline is ‘a more rewarding experience’ showing that it is truly more than just gaming,” Setterstrom said. “It’s the experience that you have. Because we really care about you as a customer. We really like to see you win.”

Because if the customer wins, Lucky Eagle Casino wins.

“We’re all working together,” Setterstrom said. “We’re one team. One body.”

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