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Thoughts on Treasure Island

Posted Monday, September 21st, 2015 09:01 pm GMT -5 in Business, Casinos

I don’t usually write a lot about casinos on this site, but there has been so much Minnesota news this year, I just can’t pass up the opportunity to offer a little commentary. I’ll start off with Treasure Island Resort and Casino, operated by the Prairie Island Indian Community outside Red Wing, Minnesota. Like many rural Minnesota casinos, they are Goodhue County’s number one employer, with a large gaming floor (roughly 2200 slots, 50 tables and bingo), 500 hotel rooms, RV park, marina, 24-lane bowling center, multiple dining options and the Island Event Center, which can seat 3000 people for concerts and other events. The tribe also purchased the Mount Frontenac Golf Course in 2000, which is located about 22 miles south of the casino on highway 61. Oh, can’t forget the 120 passenger yacht Spirit of the Water,” which is unique among casinos in the state.

We started visiting Treasure Island early on, long before they added all these newer amenities. An early favorite memory was getting my first royal flush on a quarter video poker machine. I’m pretty sure this was when I was still a poor college student, so instead of $1000 for a max coin bet ($1.25), I won a grand total of $62.50. Still not bad for a single quarter bet, but I later learned a nickel machine pays $200 on a 25-cent bet. Other memories include seeing Ron White in concert (and watching him drive a scooter all over the casino afterwards), bowling during the 2012 Super Bowl and watching A Brulé Christmas last year.

Several little birdies have told me the casino has had quite a bit of staffing and revenue drama the past year, but major decisions are still being made: the new Tado Steakhouse opened in March, the Tradewinds Buffet just reopened after a major remodel and they broke ground in May on a $19 million pool expansion that will include a fitness center, spa/salon, lazy river, zero depth pool and a swim-up bar. Colleen and I liked Tado – it’s a beautiful room with good food. Service wasn’t the best, but we did visit right after they opened. Brad and I tried to stop for lunch at the new buffet after golfing at The Jewel, but they refused to seat us at 2:01. Ugh.

We had another recent negative experience with a security guard, but the service recovery was laudable. Colleen and I stopped at their convenience store outside the casino before heading in to play. She bought a soft drink there, but a casino guard wouldn’t let her bring it in the building. Their marketing department sent me an email after our visit and I let them know about her experience. Within a day, I had a personal reply from Security Manager Leslie Keplin apologizing and explaining their policy. Very nice.

Treasure Island competes aggressively with Mystic Lake and Grand Casino Hinckley for the bulk of the Twin Cities market and must spend a ton of money on advertising and promotion. They sponsor just about every major sports team in Minnesota and my dad and uncle love spinning the wheel at Wild and Twins games. They have both redeemed multiple hotel stays and various amounts of free play. I even won $100 in free play during a Twins game and used it by visiting my old friend Kenny in the tiny, non-smoking area way back by the poker room (they also have a larger non-smoking area near bingo).

Overall, I like what they are doing for their community (and for southeastern Minnesota). I always thought they were close to our house, but it’s more than twice as far as Mystic Lake (which is still my favorite). On my last visit, I noticed that they seem to get a lot of traffic from Rochester, which I imagine is the closest gaming option for those guests (along with Diamond Jo in Iowa). I’ve never been a fan of their outside visuals, but the tropical theme inside is well executed, as is their social media. They have expanded in a patchwork fashion over the years, but it’s now coming together nicely…

Originally published by DK on September 21, 2015 at 9:01 pm

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