CEO John Setterstrom Reflects on the Lucky Eagle Experience



By Gail Wood

john setterstrom
Lucky Eagle CEO, John Setterstrom (in beige coat) believes in being connected to the community. The casino operation has donated nearly $500,000 to local United Way chapters in the past five years.

Lucky Eagle.  Where everybody knows your name. Where the personal touch, that friendly, “call you by your first name” welcome sets this casino above the rest in a competitive world.

That’s the Lucky Eagle experience.  And it’s no accident.

The experience of being among friends is what John Setterstrom, CEO of Lucky Eagle Casino and Hotel, and his team works to make that happen for every guest who walks through the doors.

“The team members are creating this great experience on the floor every day,” he said. “We have what we call the ‘Cheers factor.’  I’m really proud of the job they do. They make our visitors feel like honored guests.”

Often a forgotten commodity in today’s fast-paced society, personal service is what keeps people coming back to Lucky Eagle, located just south of Olympia in Rochester, Washington.  It’s more than just gaming. It’s that great feeling you get when the experience impresses and delights, without a guest having to ask.

“We want to develop great relationships, show we care about our guests beyond the visit and exceed their expectations,” Setterstrom said.

After working in Las Vegas, Setterstrom has been with Lucky Eagle since it opened in June 1995.  He has seen the casino grow from the infancy of a new industry in Washington State to fill the role of a major employer and vital member of the business landscape.

The casino boasts 975 slot machines on the gaming floor and another 80 inside the hotel.  The hotel recently added another 100 rooms to bring its total room count to 170.   There are 5 dining experiences, Keno, Bingo and Table Games.  This is a complete casino package.

“It’s doing very well,” Setterstrom said in reference to Lucky Eagle’s growth. “We’ve really matured since opening our doors nearly 20 years ago and surpassed expectations.”

Realizing that a happy customer is one who will return, Setterstrom has placed an emphasis on satisfying guests and he and Lucky Eagle have received awards such as Business of the Year, Boss of the Year and Outstanding Employer of the Year.

Besides the friendly interactions with staff, Setterstrom is also proud of the local economic impact. Lucky Eagle employs over 700 people between the hotel and casino.

“To be able to provide jobs and work opportunities has been very satisfying,” Setterstrom said. “I’ve enjoyed my time here. It’s been a great experience. Every day I’m here I feel very blessed and fortunate to be able to continue to work with a great group of people like the Chehalis Tribe.”

john setterstrom
John Setterstrom (far right) credits his team for the guest experience at Lucky Eagle.

Over the years, Setterstrom has also emphasized the importance of being connected to the community. Casino administrators, blackjack dealers, security officers and everyone in between are supporting local non-profits.  They are involved in church groups, non-profit organizations such as United Way and Boys and Girls Clubs of Thurston County, and other volunteer organizations. Setterstrom serves on the Thurston County Economic Development Council and on the Providence St. Peter Foundation Board.

As an example of his team’s readiness to help and give, Setterstrom said they have given nearly a half million dollars to United Way in the past five years, which doesn’t include company donations.

“We’re very active,” Setterstrom said. “We’re plugged into the community. We’ve embedded charitable giving into the organization and the employees have really responded.  I think that’s just one of the things that makes Lucky Eagle unique. We all live and work here, so it’s natural to engage in our community.”

Setterstrom adds that the emphasis on giving back is focused on helping those in need and making a difference locally.

From the start, Setterstrom said the casino’s business strategy has been to be “a good neighbor and a good business partner” with the community.

“Not only do we provide employment and opportunities for the tribe’s economic growth but our team members spend their dollars in the South Sound community.  Our impact is a positive ripple through the local economy,” Setterstrom said.

When the casino first opened, Setterstrom made a commitment to be a source of entertainment for everyone, regardless of whether they chose to play games or not.

While Lucky Eagle has always been a great source of gaming and dining entertainment, it is upping its game. Bigger and better entertainment is coming on line bringing with it a higher level of energy to the property.  The intimate venue ensures everyone a great seat and extends the personal touch of the casino.

“We’re bringing in some larger acts,” Setterstrom said. “We just had (country singer) Aaron Lewis and Wynonna Judd. They were some of the best shows I’ve seen.”

With growing competition from tribes across the state, Setterstrom knows that Lucky Eagle can’t afford to sit still and Lucky Eagle is expected to make a number of announcements in 2014.

“We’ll have some great new offerings for our guests, whether you’re a gamer or not,” Setterstrom said.


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