Wind Creek celebrates one year
By By Adam Prestridge
special to the standard
Amid a climate of confusion over the future of gaming in Alabama, Wind Creek Casino and Hotel in Atmore has just celebrated its first year of operation.
And Wind Creek officials said they are pleased with the progress the destination resort has made despite a struggling economy.
Thriving amid controversy
And customers continue to stream in to the facility, while at other non-Indian casinos the legal and political wrangling has continued in recent weeks.
As a federally regulated operation, PCI Gaming is limited to the electronic gaming that is offered elsewhere in the state, Class II gaming. The state does not allow the use of table games or true slot machines.
Two of the non-Indian gaming facilities in the state — VictoryLand near Montgomery and Country Crossing near Dothan — have closed in recent days, in the wake of failed raids at the facilities since Mobile District Attorney John Tyson took over the anti-gambling task force.
VictoryLand owner Milton McGregor told The Montgomery Advertiser that the closure of his facility was related to the need to upgrade equipment, not because of the attempted raid.
Through the controversy, Wind Creek has remained open — and, if accounts of its first year of operation are true, thriving.
Wind Creek customers include regulars like 58-year-old Warren Peek of Andalusia, who says he makes the nearly 80-mile journey once a week to Wind Creek.
Peek and the thousands of other customers that pack the casino’s gaming floor daily are also drawn to the environment the new state-of-the-art facility offers.
Located just up Highway 21 from downtown Atmore, Wind Creek has brought more traffic into the community.
Sheryl Vickery, director of the Atmore Chamber of Commerce, said it is hard to tell just how much it has affected those businesses in downtown Atmore.
Vickery said one of the obvious benefits of the casino and hotel are the jobs it has created. Wind Creek officials said they expected to have up to 600 workers when the casino was at full operation; final numbers were not available last month.
Vickery said the chamber is open to new ideas on how to let visitors know there are things in Atmore to attract people who will stop in the downtown area and support the local businesses.
Vickery said the added traffic through Atmore because of the casino’s business will likely help other businesses in the community.
PCI has continued to invest in other gaming facilities — including those out of state.
Wind Creek Casino and Hotel is the crown jewel of PCI Gaming, which includes two smaller venues, Riverside Casino and Tallapoosa Casino. In late August, the Tribe announced that it would invest $16 million into two pari-mutuel greyhound tracks, the Mobile Greyhound Park in Theodore and Pensacola Greyhound Track in Pensacola.
Dorris said Wind Creek officials are pleased with the progress of the Atmore casino.
Among those firsts were the opening of $245 million resort, which features a 57,000 square foot gaming floor with more than 1,600 electronic bingo gaming machines; a 17-floor, 236-room hotel; four restaurants; a lounge featuring live entertainment and an outdoor amphitheater. A few months after opening, officials unveiled the innovative Cooking Studio at Wind Creek under the direction of award-winning Chef Stafford DeCambra and the Spa at Wind Creek offering guests the same luxuries of competing casinos in nearby Mississippi.
Dorris said the casino’s other attractions — including the spa and cooking school — have made the resort a destination spot.