the LYNCH report

The Power of Clear Insight

Tulalip Casino Resort: Great Hotel; Too Bad About the Casino…

with 13 comments

SUMMARY: Outstanding hotel rooms not enough to overcome mediocre casino and extremely poor service.

Off-site management meetings are always a welcomed change of pace, so when it came time for our latest leadership gathering, we decided to hit the road: a trip stateside to the Tulalip Resort Casino, just outside Everett, in Washington State.

These people are hired stand-ins. You will not experience anything approaching such simulated glee at Tulalip Casino Resort.

These people are hired stand-ins. You will not experience anything approaching such simulated glee at Tulalip Casino Resort.

A two-hour drive south from Vancouver, the Tulalip Resort Casino is located immediately off Interstate 5, next to an outlet mall and not much else. The air has a pungent, manure odor to it, unfamiliar to us city types, which thankfully was undetectable once inside the resort.

We’ll give you the good news first: the accommodations are first-rate: large rooms with enormous, tastefully decorated bathrooms (complete with separate toilet area, in the old British water closet tradition), big LG LCD flat screen TVs, and some of the most comfortable beds I’ve ever had the pleasure of sleeping on.

Access to your floor is governed by key card, room service is available 24 hours a day (and was delicious) and maid service was top-notch and unobtrusive.

Some minor quibbles worth mentioning: the entire hotel is non-smoking. This despite the fact one can smoke anywhere on the casino floor. The hotel room windows also don’t open; nor do the rooms come with balconies.

Checked in, delighted with the accommodations and patting ourselves on the back, we headed for the casino.

On the way into the casino, there’s a lounge. We mention that only to point out a strange feature of this particular lounge: there are no seats or tables to lounge at. The bar features no bar stools whatsoever; the only seating available is at one of the slot machines that occupy every inch of wall space, or at one of the table games in the middle of the room. Wanting to relax a moment and have a drink, we got out of there in a hurry.

Instead we found another lounge almost directly across, this one with chairs and tables and servers and all the other things we’ve become accustomed to finding in a lounge in this, the modern age. You can’t smoke in this lounge, although immediately outside the entranceway (which has no doors) you can. Having gotten some business out of the way in the lounge, we headed for the casino floor.

If you’ve ever gambled in Vegas or Reno or Vancouver or, really, anywhere else, you’re in for a big disappointment. The slot machines are all of the late ’80s mid ’90s variety – you know the kind: lots of “7s” and diamonds and “bar” and not much in the way of bonus games. Put it this way: you’re not going to find a Wizard of Oz machine here.

You will not find this game at Tulalip. Nor the previous generation of games. Nor the one before that. Nor...

You will not find this game at Tulalip. Nor the previous generation of games. Nor the one before that. Nor...

But wait, it gets worse: the slot machines don’t accept money! This we learned after the little slot where one ordinarily inserts money (that is, after all, what we’re here for!) rejected bill after bill after bill. We finally learned that you need to buy vouchers first. There are no signs indicating this on any of the machines. Why on earth a casino would place obstacles in the way of the gamer is beyond us. Well beyond us.

Gritting our teeth and repeating, “When in Rome…” over and over again, we made our way to the cashier to get some vouchers. It got even worse when we were confronted with, “What size voucher do you want?” That seemed easy enough to answer: the hundred dollar size! Not so fast. The employee behind the cage was literally asking us the dimensions of the voucher. You see, they have different sized vouchers for different machines, which are incompatible! Also, certain cashiers only accept certain sized vouchers! That’s when we noticed the sporadic signs with, “This Machine Accepts the Big Tickets!” on some slot machines. This was quickly becoming exhausting.

With a hundred dollars of the larger vouchers in hand, we made our way to some of the vintage slot machines that populate the casino floor. No worries if the particular machine you want is being used: there are only about eight varieties of machines, and they repeat throughout the casino, everywhere. “Oh look,” we found ourselves saying, “yet another bank of ‘Queen of the Nile’ machines!”.

What passes for the height of gaming technology at Tulalip Casino Resort

What passes for the height of gaming technology at Tulalip Casino Resort

We settled in to a few machines, inserted our vouchers and tried to play some slots. That’s when we discovered another goofy feature of the Tulalip Casino: when you hit the button to spin the slot machine’s wheels, they don’t spin! Correction: they spin backwards a few places, then stop, frozen. You then have to hit the button again to get the #%$& machine to play! We’ve never experienced a casino anywhere in the world which in ways none-too-subtle screams out, “Don’t spend money here!”

Finally, a cocktail girl appeared. We ordered beers and learned you have to pay for your beers – no comps here. This was getting very tedious indeed.

After cashing in our large vouchers for smaller vouchers and trying some machines in the small voucher part of the floor (and finding them equally boring, tedious to operate and frustration inducing), we gave up. The casinos in Vancouver have better atmosphere, modern machines (which, horror of horrors, accept money directly!) and spin when you hit the button telling them to spin. In fact, the worst casinos we’ve ever been to are better than the casino featured at the Tulalip Casino Resort. Frankly, we’d rather sit in the parking lot and bet on who can throw a penny closest to the wall.

Fed up with the gaming, we set off in search of food, ending up at the Tulalip Bay fine dining restaurant. This is a place trying very, very hard to exude an air of “upscale”, and they do this by explaining, with great verbosity, every aspect of every item you order, using superlatives they must have found at a bulk sale somewhere. The menu is standard west coast fare, the usual assortment one finds in any number of Vancouver restaurants, usually consisting of a seafood/french cuisine fusion. The wine list is solid, though not spectacular, and God help you if you make the mistake of asking for some advice on a suitable wine. You’ll be there for a long…long…long time.

For more standard eating, Tulalip Casino also features Cedars Cafe. We’d like to tell you about the food there, but can’t: we waited an awfully long time to be seated while the hostess gazed down at her seating plan, finally acknowledging us after no less than three minutes (during which we coughed and rattled keys and said, “excuse me” and nearly reached the point of faking a seizure). When finally seated, we waited another twenty minutes. No one came to our table. Parties at other tables craned their necks and made hand gestures and waved menus wildly. Alas, all such displays were ignored. We left after twenty minutes (we timed it) of trying to get some service, any service.

Having only recently opened the hotel portion of the property, perhaps the staff at Tulalip are still trying to sort out the basics of customer service. Maybe they hadn’t bargained on the possibility of seven parties in the Cedars Cafe simultaneously (gasp!). Maybe the real slot machines are on order and shall arrive shortly. Maybe the native band which owns Tulalip Casino Resort is unaware their casino resort is competing with casinos everywhere, in a faltering economy, running a gaming monopoly no more. Regardless, we can’t recommend visiting this casino resort unless you don’t care to gamble, bring your own food, don’t smoke and stay in the truly amazing rooms for your entire stay. If it’s gambling you’re after, you’re better off two hours north at the excellent River Rock Casino in British Columbia (added bonus: winnings are not taxed in Canada) or the comparable Boulevard Casino, also in BC. Or simply fly down to Vegas.

Having learned our lesson, we’ll be holding our next off-site management meeting somewhere, anywhere, but the Tulalip Casino Resort.


Directions: Tulalip Casino Resort is located off I-5 ten minutes north of Everett.


Pros: Incredible hotel rooms.

Cons: Gaming floor, restaurants, service (at all levels), irritating voucher system, incompatible voucher sizes, terrible variety of slot machines, no drink comps, barriers to enjoyment at nearly every turn.

Suitable for: the non-gamer, non-restaurant eater who will not leave hotel room.

Rating: 2.5/10

Final Word: Don’t bother with this mediocre casino resort.

Written by westcoastsuccess

July 21, 2008 at 9:11 am

Posted in Travel

13 Responses

Subscribe to comments with RSS.

  1. The Resort Casino is short-staffed. There were “hundreds” of postitions still open before the opening in June. I’m surprised it’s tough to fill any job what with the amazing economy we’re in now.

    And there’s not much to be done about the slots. They’re “gaming machines” and the no cash deal is a regulation, by no means a choice on the casino or tribe’s part.

    If you really wanted to game you should have gone for a table game. Slots are the biggest money makers for a reason.


    July 22, 2008 at 11:36 am

  2. I guess we must have lucked out when we stayed. The Cedars cafe did seem short staffed but short of that our stay was nothing short of amazing. In fact the casino was one of our favorite parts. Our host was very friendly, they had games that I had never seen, and probably didn’t hurt any that I won right away. By contrast my last trip to the River Rock still haunts me as my worst casino experience of all time. Though I will grant them that it’s nice to be able to feed money straight in…..


    July 23, 2008 at 9:35 am

  3. Being a frequent traveler, I concur with you completely that the rooms are first-rate. The hotel is beautiful, guest rooms luxurious, yet inviting and the level of service outstanding. As a brand new hotel there are a few bumps, like the slow service at Cedars, but they seem aware of their growing pains and their staff makes every attempt to smooth over these learning curves for the guests.

    As for your review of the casino – I am somewhat confused. I have been making Vegas my home airport for the last several years and have spent at least 10 days per month there over the last year. The slots at the Tulalip Casino are right up there with the slots at The Wynn on the Vegas strip, including Wolf Run, Stinking Rich, Bombay, etc., yes it is unfortunate that the machines do not currently accept cash, but when I queried a cashier about this – she indicated they were working on the implementation of cash in for the slots.

    Over the last several years I have had the opportunity to spend time at many tribally owned casinos and I would say that the Tulalip Casino ranks right up there in the top 5.

    As for Tulalip Bay -excellent food, continental service and the understanding that a superb meal should be savored, not rushed. Let’s face it – fine dining just isn’t for everybody.


    July 23, 2008 at 11:12 am

  4. We haven’t tried Stinking Rich or Bombay, but Wolf Run is an ancient machine, by slots standards. You won’t find machines made in the past five years at Tulalip – games like Monopoly or Star Wars or the aforementioned Wizard of Oz (which is right at the cutting edge of slots technology). To each their own – if the old school machines are your thing, you’ll find Tulalip’s casino floor a paradise. We tired of those in the late ’90s.

    As for fine dining, we do a fair bit of that – try the excellent William Tell restaurant when next you’re in Vancouver for some of the finest dining to be found (with top notch, sophisticated, yet unobtrusive service).

    We have received some feedback that the inability of Tulalip’s slots to accept cash is a regulatory issue – we’ll try to confirm this and update our post accordingly.

    As for the rooms, you’ll get no argument here: they’re outstanding!

    As always, appreciate the feedback!


    July 23, 2008 at 12:13 pm

  5. We’re surprised about the comment about River Rock – it rivals most Vegas casinos, the only downside being that it tends to be crowded. River Rock is about one generation behind on the slots (but catching up); Tulalip is at least 5 generations behind the curve on slot machine technology.

    Can you perhaps elaborate on your experience at River Rock, Sonya?


    July 23, 2008 at 12:17 pm

  6. All the “Slot Machines” at Native American casinos in Washington State tend to lag behind Reno and Vegas. We visit Vegas every year and most new machines there don’t show up in Washington until at least a year or more after their debut in Vegas, if even then. Some of then never make it.

    I suspect this is partly due to whether or not they are easily adaptable to how slot machines work in Washington. They’re not really slot machines. None of them operate as a “stand alone” unit. All of the indian casino slots in Washington are simply “player terminals” used to obtain a computer-generated electronic pulltab. There are a pre-determined and fixed number of winners within each “Game Set” and once you press the button, before the reels even spin, your outcome has already been determined…and the reels align to simply display/match the value of the electronic pulltab you just purchased. Players are actually in competition with each other.

    Ever see someone watching a player or players on the slots, and after seeing someone dump $60 or $80 or more into a particular credit-value bet (ie: playing $60 or $80 all on an 18 credit bet or 27 credit bet) they sit down beside you and start playing 18 credits real fast, and then get into the bonus? They probably know how it works. They let you get $60 or $80 worth of losing “tickets” out of the way, and then they snag the winner you helped buy for them. It’s no different than putting $50 into a old-style paper pulltab tank, and then someone else buys $5 in the same tank and wins. The only difference is that you can’t “freeze” a slot machine.

    If you doubt this info contact the Washington State Gambling Commission. That’t where I got this info.


    September 3, 2008 at 7:47 am

  7. Unless you can find an ancient mechanical slot, ALL slot machines have the outcome of any particular spin determined prior to the reels spinning. That’s not to say they aren’t pseudo-random; rather it just means the machine knows the outcome well before you do and then gets busy putting on a show with the spinning reels for the player’s benefit.

    The latest slot machines (ie Star Trek and Wizard of Oz) are not just linked to other machines in the same casino: they’re linked via an ethernet connection to other machines in other STATES! For example, you can save a log-in name on Star Trek in Vegas, play for a while until you unlock one of the extra episodes, log out, fly to Atlantic City, find another Star Trek machine, log in, and continue exactly where you left off.

    You’re exactly right: when one plays any particular Star Trek machine, one is competing against all the other people playing Star Trek machines.

    The interesting thing about slot machines is that on nearly every single session, the player will at some point be ahead. Just 99% of people won’t cash out before the machines takes back the player’s winnings. It’s the theory the owner of Circus Circus used many, many years ago, when he loosened the slot machines to pay out 99% of the money players put in. Everyone thought he was nuts; instead, the place got packed with slots players and they nearly without fail continued playing until they lost the money again, having been convinced by the generous payouts the slots were “hot” and would continue paying…


    September 7, 2008 at 5:45 am

  8. Tulalip Resort Casino is i my opinion only a place to loose your money the machines are set to such a low payback percentage that winning any real money is almost impossible .

    Peter Loichtl

    August 16, 2009 at 3:55 pm

  9. Tulalip Resort Casino is i my opinion only a place to loose your money.

    Peter Loichtl

    August 16, 2009 at 3:56 pm

  10. If you dont know how to play, stay home. I win there often. As far as the comps go, they give away soda and water. If you really like comps, join the reward club. My girl friend and I regularly stay at the hotel free of charge and receive as well as receive 50.00 resteraunt comps. Furthermore, they must have done alot in the last couple of years because the machines you describe are a mere fraction of what is available to play. Many animation and video intigrated machines. Perhaps you should visit it again and update your review.


    December 11, 2010 at 12:11 am

    • dcorns, There is no such thing as “know how to play. The slot machines are all predetermined spin outcome as soon as the player hits the button. There is absolutely nothing a player can do to heighten their chances of winning on the tribal slot machines in wa state. I f you think there is any skill at all in playing the slot machines in the state of Washington. You must be a NITWIT!!


      June 19, 2014 at 9:58 pm

  11. I agree with the last poster. You might want to visit again and update your review. I win playing slots at Tulalip all the time. I Have won more money at this casino than I ever have in Vegas and the machines are constantly being upgraded. I generally find people who don’t know how to gamble to win are typically unhappy with their constant losing and blame the casino. This place is plenty busy all the time,so your business won’t be missed.


    April 6, 2011 at 10:35 pm

  12. How do you gamble to win on slots ?


    November 29, 2012 at 1:03 pm

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: