Let’s remember when the new Emerald Queen Casino opened in Fife, on this day in 2004 (December 29)

Chris Burlingame
Dec 29, 2019 · 3 min read
Photo from Yelp.

The Emerald Queen Casino has been such an important part of the Tacoma area for over 20 years now. It’s probably one of the most recognizable casinos in the Northwest, and some of their billboards along I-5, I swear, can be seen from space.

And it opened in its new location in Fife fifteen years ago today. From HistoryLink and Miguel Douglas:

On December 29, 2004, the Puyallup Tribe of Indians’ new Emerald Queen Casino opens in Fife in northern Pierce County, following reduction in road access to the original paddlewheel riverboat casino located on the Blair Waterway in Tacoma to allow for development of a Port of Tacoma container facility for the shipping conglomerate Evergreen Marine Corporation. Following a contentious negotiation process between the Puyallup Tribe and the Port of Tacoma regarding the future development of the Blair Waterway and the location of the original casino, an agreement provides the opportunity for the Puyallup Tribe to greatly expand casino gaming, with new or enlarged facilities at both the Fife location and at the Emerald Queen Casino I-5 just off the Interstate in Tacoma.

Viewing the project as a way to employ its membership as well as to seek new forms of revenue development, the Puyallup Tribe opened the Emerald Queen Casino (EQC) in 1996. Built as a paddlewheel riverboat, a majority of the casino structure was placed on the water. Visitors had the opportunity to participate in a variety of table games and slot machines. The casino’s location brought in significant traffic from tourists and visitors to the area, with many coming to view it as a Tacoma landmark. In 2002, a second, smaller addition to the riverboat casino was opened, as the Emerald Queen Casino I-5, in the building that had housed the Tribe’s bingo hall.

The success of the casino operations opened the pathway for self-determination for the Puyallup Tribe, providing the possibility for which full economic development could finally emerge. The casino not only supported Tribal members, but also extended outside of the Tribal community to help those around them. The casinos provided around 1,000 jobs with full benefits for the diverse workforce in the area, soon becoming one of the largest employers in Pierce County. The casino project also brought business to a variety of local vendors, as the Tribe contracted with local construction firms to build and maintain the casino and conducted financial matters through a local bank, all of which reflected the willingness of the Tribe to support the local community.

The Tribe also gave back considerable shares of its casino profits to local communities, using its newly obtained profits first to help its own members but then also to financially the the larger community. For Tribal members, much of the casino profits have gone to support social and economic development. This can be seen in a variety of efforts, including the construction of health and dental clinics and financial aid for higher education.

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