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Vegas thrills, close to home

By Keegan Prosser on December 14, 2012 – No Comment

ZZ Top perform at Snoqualmie Casino. Courtesy of Snoqualmie Casino


The strains of “I Love Rock ‘n’ Roll” can still get Lisa Rasmussen moving.

As a 7-year-old, Rasmussen’s first record was Joan Jett and The Blackhearts’ 1981 classic. To this day, the record continues to relate for the North Bend mom, now in her late 30s.

“My kids listen to it now,” she said.

Love of rock ‘n’ roll saw Rasmussen among the crowd when Jett and The Blackhearts performed at Snoqualmie Casino’s outdoor concert venue last summer.

Rasmussen joined fans from several generations, dancing in the crowd at the casino’s Mountain View Plaza. She learned that Jett, at age 54, can still rock. She still looks cool in leather pants.

Live shows, big names

Since opening in November of 2008, Snoqualmie Casino, owned by the Snoqualmie Indian Tribe, has positioned itself as the Eastside’s main entertainment venue, drawing visitors from the Seattle metro area with a diverse mix of entertainment under a 170,000-square-foot roof.

To be sure, this place is big. Snoqualmie Casino has five different restaurants, serving fare from fine dining to sushi to sandwiches. It boasts several upscale lounges and bars, including a swanky cigar bar, nearly 2,000 slot machines and table games, more than a thousand employees and parking for 2,000 cars. It overlooks the cities of Snoqualmie and North Bend from its hillside location, a short distance from Interstate 90’s exit 27.

With two performance venues—the 2,300-seat outdoor Mountain View Plaza and the more intimate Snoqualmie Ballroom—the casino hosts a fast-changing round of special events, from live comedy to mixed martial arts. But the biggest names are the sell-out concert acts: Names like The Jacksons, Peter Frampton, Willie Nelson, ZZ Top, Joan Jett, Roger Hodgson of Supertramp and Rob Thomas of Matchbox 20.

Mike Moloney, president of Las Vegas-based Mike Moloney Entertainment, is the man behind the big-name acts at Snoqualmie Casino. He arranges for the likes of Frampton, Willie and Jessica Simpson to play here.

Moloney seeks acts with appeal for everyone from grandparents to the young and hip.

“We look at every demographic, and want to keep them all happy,” he says.

At a casino, fans get to see big-name artists in a much more intimate setting than a huge theater or vast arena.

“You see Yes, Roger Hodgson of Supertramp, Don Rickles, Jay Leno, and you don’t have to go to Las Vegas” to do it, Moloney says.

He also makes sure to book up-and-coming artists, such as country artists Gloriana, Mario Cantone of “The View,” and tribute shows such as BeatleMania.

“We also bring in the male dance revue Thunder from Down Under… which are probably some of our craziest audiences!” Moloney says.

Bringing in rising talent along with familiar stars is important, because casinos want to reach beyond the Baby Boomers.

“It shows we are an entertainment destination,” Moloney says.

This is show business, but the stars don’t necessarily tour for the money. For many, there is a love of being in front of an audience. And, according to Moloney, some of these once-hard-partying rock stars can be surprisingly laid back, regular folks.

“When we had ZZ Top come through, the old days of partying were long gone,” Moloney said. “All they really wanted at the end of their show was chicken fajitas.”

All five senses

Some folks savor fine wines or fancy food. For Fuzzy Fletcher, there’s nothing better than the aroma of a good cigar.

Fletcher, former Snoqualmie mayor and today the director of public safety for the Snoqualmie Tribe, unwinds weekly at LIT, Snoqualmie Casino’s cigar lounge.

It’s true, says Fletcher, that some people say cigars smell terrible. To each their own

Fletcher says that for him, it’s not the smell of the tobacco that he enjoys, so much as the taste.

“A little leathery, and a little cedar-like… and almost, in some instances, a little bit of espresso.”

That’s how he describes his favorite cigars, made by Don Pepin, a Miami-based roller of Nicaraguan tobacco.

Fletcher was one of LIT’s first customers, and he still enjoys coming here in spare moments, unwinding in a soft armchair, watching television, and savoring the taste of an imported cigar, which can last for several hours. Tobacconists here are knowledgeable, he says, and ready to help cigar aficionados make a choice about what to enjoy.

For Fletcher, this is one of the last places left where he can light up a cigar, indoors. The LIT experience underlines how sight, smell, sound and taste overlap here.

The trick to really enjoying the casino, says Lars Sorensen, its director of marketing, is knowing that everything is under one roof.

Take advantage of the amenities, he says — “We’re 30 miles from downtown,” two lefts off Interstate 90. You don’t have to pay for parking. The beer’s not $10 a pull. You have options for everything from a hot dog to fine dining. And you know what? You might walk out of here with a jackpot.”

Casinos don’t publicly reveal how much money goes out annually in gaming wins. However, the biggest jackpots, a little over $1 million, have been won twice over Snoqualmie Casino’s first four years.

But it’s not all about the winnings. People really come here to be entertained, says Snoqualmie Casino CEO Jon Jenkins.

There’s a thrill, an escape from the humdrum. Visitors form friendships and become regulars.

“It becomes their social getaway,” Jenkins says.

“It’s not just one thing when you come here,” says Sorensen. “This is a place where, if you want to come in jeans and a T-shirt, you’re welcome. You can walk in, in a tuxedo, with your wife and relive prom night. No one’s going to think anything of it. They’re going to pat you on the back when they see you.”

All under one roof

Snoqualmie Casino aims to provide a complete entertainment experience under one roof, with live shows, gaming, food, drink.

Whether making friends at the fast and furious pace of the craps table, studying hands at the blackjack tables or giving roulette a spin, Snoqualmie Casino’s 50 Vegas-style table games give you plenty of room for action, no matter what your game is. Classic favorites include blackjack, roulette, baccarat, craps and fortune pai gow.
Lights, color and sound fill the casino floor, where 1,700 slot machines featuring state-of-the-art technology offers a maze to get lost in and find your fortune.
Whether a seasoned high-roller or a young up and comer looking to take a shot at being king of the mountain, Snoqualmie’s 10-table Poker Room offers a place to stake your claim—from a friendly game to white-knuckled, high stakes.

Concert venues
Snoqualmie Ballroom seats about 1,100 spectators for live shows and special events.
The casino’s outdoor Mountain View Plaza, with views of the Cascades, seats 2,000 for seasonal concerts and sports events.

Dining and drinks
Whether you’re making a pit stop before heading back to the games, or celebrating a big moment with fine dining, Snoqualmie Casino offers a dining choice for all occasions.
Options include the fine-dining Terra Vista restaurant, 12 Moons Asian Bistro, the complete Falls Buffet, the Sno Café New York-style deli, the Drip coffee shop, and the Sno Deli, with pizza, sandwiches and salads.

LIT Cigar Lounge
If the sweet smell of success brings to mind a fine, hand-rolled cigar, you’re among friends at LIT, a premium cigar lounge. A walk-in humidor features a wide selection and exclusive brands.