The Good: Child-friendly options, Good game assortment.
The Bad: Lack of flash, Atmosphere
The Basics: Visiting twice for my partner's birthday, Soaring Eagle Casino was fun more for the gaming selection than the location.
I swear, if I have any loyal readers here, they must think it is impossible for me to go to Michigan without stopping at a casino! It was only my second trip to Michigan to spend time with the woman who would only three months later become my wife when we went up to Turtle Creek Casino (reviewed here!). And the next trip after that, I took some time to explore Greektown Casino down near Detroit. So, I suppose it ought to be no real surprise that we ventured back last weekend so she could spend her twenty-first birthday among friends, that we would hit a casino closer to where we were staying. This brought us to Soaring Eagle Casino and Resort, which is pretty much in the center of Michigan.
Soaring Eagle is a large casino and is one of two Soaring Eagle casinos in mid-Michigan. Slightly north of Soaring Eagle is Soaring Eagles Landing and it is affiliated with this Soaring Eagle. Both are an enterprise of the Saginaw Chippewa Indians and a nice place with a great selection of video slot machines as well as a hefty number of table games.
Soaring Eagle Casino: came in with $5.00, left with $0.00 (several hours of fun later).
Soaring Eagle is a decent-sized casino located at 6800 Soaring Eagle Boulevard in Mount Pleasant, Michigan. This is fairly easy to find simply from roadside signs along Interstate 75 - a major north/south route running through Michigan - and it is about half an hour from the I-75 exit (it's around 167) on Michigan routes 10 and 20. The easiest way to find the casino is via route 127 which is a less major north/south that goes directly to the casino. Mapquest and yahoo directions are quite precise with the above address. Little word to the wise; the roads near Soaring Eagle are heavily patrolled by state police who seem eager to nab drivers before they get onto Chippewa land. Drive the speed limit along 10 and 20!
Soaring Eagle has a large parking area near the casino and it was about eighty percent full both times we went on this last trip. As well, there is a parking structure, but we parked outside and walked in so I cannot vouch for either the safety, expense (I'm sure it was free) and ease of parking in there. There is valet parking for those who want that service.
The Soaring Eagle Casino is a large Indian-run casino in the midwest and it feels like it is capitalizing on the space it has. All of the ceilings are very high, all of the carpets are clean and the place feels like one massive hotel lobby or a very generic casino. In fact, both times we visited, we were impressed by the size but I - having been to Las Vegas - was underwhelmed because of the lack of dazzle, gimmick or flash. There is little sense of style here, just the cold, hard reality of coming to game, despite the walls being colored fairly neutral earth tones. We arrived in the afternoon both days and the artificial light dominated, even on the outside walls, more than the sunlight. There were, however, some penny slots along the back wall which had pretty nasty glare from sunlight coming from high windows.
The casino is spaced and dressed up like any number of other casinos, evoking a general memory of a hotel lobby. The main gaming floor is huge and actually is spaced and arranged for ease of movement, with some limits. Banks of video slots are fairly regular and have pretty decent stretches before one runs into a perpendicular bank which forces one to either stop and gamble or turn. Soaring Eagle had a pretty impressive selection of many of the video slots that it had. As a result, one often had easy opportunities to play many of the most popular games.
The high ceilings should help dissipate the cigarette and cigar smoke that is prevalent in the casino, but there was still a pretty significant amount of cigarettes and cigar smoke around the establishment and a large number of people there were smoking, but it was not oppressive. For those who are sensitive to smoky environments, weekday mornings would seem to be the ideal time to go (it got worse the later we stayed). The problematic aspect here is that there are no clear delineations between the smoking and nonsmoking areas. In fact, talking with my partner, she did not remember seeing a nonsmoking area. I think it was because it was up front, dominated by more expensive video slots and there were people all around it smoking, including in every major walkway which - I kid not - surrounded the nonsmoking section.
As for the "atmosphere" of the Soaring Eagle, this is a casino trading on the gambling, not much more. The workers on the casino floor all wore suits and pantsuits. Women are in no way exploited in this environment and the servers wore tasteful tuxedo shirts and slacks. The people on the floor who maintained the machines wore tennis shirts even. They were responsive (one of the Star Wars slot machines I played on had some difficulties) and they seemed happy and eager to help.
Gaming Options/Player's Club
I have a very simple gambling philosophy: I sit down at a slot machine with $5.00. I work it up to $10 or down to zero. I know my limits: I can afford to lose $5.00. So, when I am above that, I'll usually work it up or whittle it down to the next even $5.00. Have a strategy, know your limits: the Soaring Eagle Casino worked quite well for me. I arrived, signed up for the player's club card and was given ten free dollars to play with. I played it, got a little cash out of the deal and then sat down with my five dollars, because my partner had a higher gambling allowance (given it was her birthday weekend). I found games I enjoyed, but because I was keeping her company, I looked at it as time spent together and for the several hours we were there over two days costing me only five dollars of my own money was not bad.
Having had pretty extensive experience with the video slot machines - it amuses me to think that last year at this time, I was a video slot virgin! - I know what I like. I tend to enjoy the slots that are more girly themed or video game-like. Soaring Eagle had a surprisingly excellent collection of video slot machines, but none that were in any way unique or surprising. Some of the new games they were highlighting included eBay, The Munsters, I Dream Of Genie, (my partner's new favorite) "Survivor" and the newer "Star Wars" Rebel Assault video slot! As well, they had a slew of the standard video slot machines I see at most casinos, like "Mystic Mermaid," Enchanted Unicorn, Ducks In A Row (which was vying for my partner's attention with "Survivor" and she seriously had a ton of fun on!), Black Knight, Neptune's Kingdom (rather irritatingly only in two or five cent options!), Dean Martin's Wild Party, Hexcraft, Cleopatra, Lucky Lemmings, Neptune's Kingdom II (VERY lame considering how good the original is!), Fort Knox, Reel Gems, Deep Diamonds (which will not allow you to stop the reels, big pout here!), three other "Star Wars" video slots (A New Home, Empire Strikes Back, and Dark Side), Clara T and hundreds of others. The Soaring Eagle Casino had an impressive selection and they varied between having banks of the same slot - like Fort Knox, I Dream Of Genie and The Munsters - to having only a couple of each - the tower of "Star Wars" slots only had two of each game, for example. Given that there are over four thousand video slot machines at Soaring Eagle it is difficult to express the full size and majesty of this place.
For those who might be into games of chance and card games instead of the fun and controlled reinforcement of video slot machines, there are over forty card tables, plus a poker room. This is definitely a place trading mostly on slot/video poker play, but there is a central area with blackjack and poker tables. I did not see roulette, but apparently it was there and there is a bingo hall as well (though it is entirely possible that was across the street in the big building marked "Bingo" now that I think about it).
There is a player's club at the Soaring Eagle, which is the Soaring Eagle Players Club. Signing up is easy and grants one Classic member status. Simply present a driver's license at the player's club center and get a card. I was given ten dollars in free play for signing up and because we went the day after my partner's birthday, she got twenty. Points here are accrued based upon a countdown clock and both of us racked up the points fairly quickly, even on the penny slots. Oddly, though, the comp dollar amount is shown each time one inserts the card, but the points are disproportionately arranged - she had $6.00 in comp dollars, but we were told we needed 1000 points to get $1.00 in free play! Still, the free play was a nice touch and if we had just played on Soaring Eagle's dime, the trip to mid-Michigan would have been worth it for that alone.
The Soaring Eagle Casino is quite light on entertainment. While we were there the only things advertised in the way of entertainment was a forthcoming concert by The Ventures. I had to check their website to learn that Larry The Cable Guy, Gretchen Wilson, Lifehouse and Merle Haggard would each be there within the next two months. I DID see the theater area and it is clear Soaring Eagle has the capacity, but it would be a surprise with their advertising if they filled the venue.
We arrived at Soaring Eagle in the afternoon both days and we could not justify the $15.95 for the buffet (the lunch and dinner buffet were equally expensive) given the limited selection they appeared to offer (a menu was posted out front). As a result, we did not try their buffet, though they did have one and it seemed pretty lackluster. No one leaving the buffet seemed especially thrilled (other casinos, I've seen people leave the buffet smiling or looking content, the people here . . . not so much.
In addition to the buffet, there was a coffee bar, a sit-down restaurant, two steakhouses, a hot dog cart and at least two bar stations on the gaming floor. After we vetoed the buffet, neither of us wanted to check out the other restaurants, but my partner did have drinks and seemed impressed by how inexpensive they were (she fondly recalls her $2.75 tequila sunrise).
Unlike Las Vegas casinos, Soaring Eagle Casino is not trading so much on shopping. There is a health club and spa associated with the hotel, but as far as shopping goes, the only place we saw was the gift shop for the adjacent hotel. There was an arcade (no pinball!) and a child care center for gamblers, but nothing stellar or visible as far as shopping. Oh, except the cigarette machine. And, again without joking, it was right next to the nonsmoking section of the gaming floor. I just put that together and it made me laugh.
Soaring Eagle Casino is good and its variety saves it from being simply an average casino and the sign-up incentive is one of the better ones outside Las Vegas. But the atmosphere is annoying for nonsmokers and it is not as impressive as its size might make it seem.
For other casino reviews, please check out my takes on:
Finger Lakes Casino
Batavia Downs Casino
For other destination reviews, please be sure to visit my Travel Review Index Page by clicking here!
© 2012, 2009 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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