Surviving the Pandemic, Striving Well Beyond It

by Laura Penney

We are now celebrating 29 years of gaming, the immense success of our enterprise rising from visionary leadership and tribal hard work. That vision was powerful, and equally powerful were the efforts by so many, following in the footsteps of those original 96 employees who opened our small Coeur d’Alene Tribe Casino in 1993.

Grand ideas came quickly in those early days, inspiring an ever-growing staff who energized our planning and created our traditional tribal hospitality, what we call the “Welcome Home” atmosphere, an amenity now so widely known.

As we continue striving for success, we have called upon our tribal members to consider the immense challenges our staff has faced, and the immense effort they have made in bringing us through a second year of pandemic.

The results are perfectly clear: We are moving ahead successfully. In fact, we are more successful than ever. This despite enduring some of the most difficult times since the Coeur d’Alene Tribal Bingo opened 29 years ago.

You might say we’ve taken care of each other in sickness and in health, and we are fully vaccinated against Covid and the looming dangers it has spawned. Careful planning, proper decision-making at the Council level and at the casino, and true dedication among our 700 employees are all elements that sustain us after two years of this pandemic.

Dedication has been the greatest catalyst. Our dedicated people go above and beyond to serve our customers and provide continued success toward tribal programs, projects, and future enterprises.

We were among the first casino resorts to close when the pandemic emerged two years ago. It worked. We kept ourselves healthy and safe. As the world and nation battled this insidiously cruel disease, we applied precautions and protocols. Thus, after six weeks of closed doors, we were the first casino operation in America to reopen. 

We have not looked back. There’s no reason to do so when we have so much to see in our future, and a great flow of optimism comes with it.

Do problems remain? Certainly. We are short-staffed; inflation has dramatically increased our costs for goods, services, and energy; a small percentage of employees left their jobs rather than receive mandatory vaccinations, and stress levels can run high when employees work so hard to complete not only their own duties, but often extra hours and shifts.

Yet, our bottom line is better than ever. Our profits are higher than ever. Further, we have broken the record for New Year’s Eve profits three years running.

We are focused now on “post-traumatic” growth, requiring those of us in leadership at the casino resort to work collaboratively, to be more creative, efficient, and cohesive to become more successful. This is our mandate even after our most successful year ever, and we are emboldened, perhaps because if we can accomplish all that we have during the pandemic, we can soar higher as we come through it.

Through all we’ve done and all we are looking forward to, I believe the success and example created at the Coeur d’Alene Casino Resort is an emblematic flagship for the Coeur d’Alene Tribe’s sovereignty. We will continue to grow with its strength and thrive in its security.

As we strive to achieve more business records this year, we are working tirelessly to increase our staff where necessary. We have pride in the job done by existing staff, and the effort they bring toward our future goals. 

They’ve earned it. And they’ll be the foundation of our next 29 years. 

Laura Penney is CEO of Coeur d’Alene Casino Resort.