Wednesday, January 11, 2012

I Limited My Gambling (My Fiance Did Not) And Turtle Creek Was Fun For Both!

The Good: Good games, Generally nice atmosphere
The Bad: Not much to do at the actual casino
The Basics: With a great selection of even some of the newest video slot machines, Turtle Creek offers pleasant enough gaming in Northern Michigan.

As I prepare to move to Michigan, I have been scouting out the area I will be living in. Having a hybrid allows me to consider places like Traverse City, which is about an hour away, my neighborhood. So, I decided to illustrate this to my fiance and we went on an overnight trip to Traverse City. After spending a night at the Quality Inn By The Bay, I surprised my fiance when we woke up the next morning. We went to Turtle Creek Casino which is just a few miles away from the Grand Traverse City Mall and we both had a lot of fun.

Turtle Creek is a surprisingly large - for the area - casino and is one of two in the area. It is an enterprise of the Grand Traverse Band of Ottawa and Chippewa Indians and a nice place with a great selection of video slot machines . . . and little else.

Turtle Creek Casino: came in with $5.00, left with $10.00.


Turtle Creek is a decent-sized casino located at 7741 M-72 East in Williamsburg, Michigan. This is about ten minutes from the Grand Traverse City Mall on Michigan Route 72. There are clear signs for M-72 throughout Traverse City and essentially one is driving around the bay until they find the sign for 72 and they turn away from the water toward the low hills nearby. Turtle Creek is set on a hill and into the slope below the crest as a surprisingly large steel and glass structure.

Turtle Creek has a large parking area near the casino and it is hard to imagine what it would look like all filled up!


The Turtle Creek Casino is a fairly 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. Turtle Creek actually utilizes well the natural light. We arrived in the morning and the giant bank of windows about fifty feet above us was the source of most of the casino's light. The sun flowed in and brightened the casino quite well, giving the whole casino a warm feeling. This is an excellent environment for those who think gambling is wrong and dirty but still do it anyway; it is hard to feel gambling shame in such a brightly lit, clean place.

The casino is spaced and dressed up like a hotel lobby. The main gaming floor is huge and actually is spaced and arranged for ease of movement. Banks of video slots are remarkably regular and unlike most casinos, one may travel along a bank of them for quite some time before running into a perpendicular bank, which prevents one from doing anything but turning or taking a seat and playing.

The high ceilings should help dissipate the cigarette and cigar smoke that is prevalent in the casino, and according to my fiance, we were there at a good time because the place was not filled with smoke. As someone sensitive to such things, I could still smell cigarettes and cigars 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. During the winter, Turtle Creek actually closes Sunday through Thursday at four a.m. for three hours a day. The other days and during the summer, it is open twenty-four hours a day.

As for the "atmosphere" of the Turtle Creek, 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 to the best of my knowledge there were no servers. Instead, the people on the floor were maintenance for the machines and guides to help gamblers find what they were looking for.

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 Turtle Creek Casino worked quite well for me. I arrived, signed up for the player's club card and sat down with my five dollars. I found a game I enjoyed, doubled it quickly and quit while I was ahead. I also gave my fiance $10. She left with forty dollars.

Having had pretty extensive experience with the video slot machines over last summer, I know what I like. I tend to enjoy the slots that are more girly themed or video game-like. Turtle Creek had a surprisingly excellent collection of video slot machines, including some I have not seen before outside Las Vegas! Some of the new games they were highlighting included eBay, Goldfish Gold, Mystic Mermaid, Happy Days, and the new one based on the original Star Trek (reviewed here!)! As well, they had a slew of the standard video slot machines I see at most casinos, like "Invaders From Planet Moo-lah," "Village People Party," Hexcraft (which is, apparently, like an ATM for my fiance), Cleopatra and hundreds of others. The Turtle Creek Casino had an impressive selection and I recall when looking around upon first entering that there were several banks of virtually every game they had. Given that there are over two thousand video slot machines at Turtle Creek 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 about eighty card tables, plus a poker room. This is definitely a place trading mostly on slot/video poker play as they devote very little space to the blackjack tables, though the only real differentiation in that section of the casino is now much it costs to bet at the table and how many decks of cards they are playing with. I did not see roulette or any other card games.

There is a player's club at the Turtle Creek, which is the Grand Rewards Players Club. Signing up is easy. Simply present a driver's license at the player's club center and get a card. They looked at me like I was crazy when I asked if there was anything given out for signing up. C'est la vie. Points here are accrued based upon how much money one bets with every dollar equaling a point, every point equaling a penny. Points may be spent on the machines when they get over five or ten dollars worth of points and a PIN is needed to do that. They may also be cashed out, we were told, when they get over a certain amount.

Entertainment Options

The Turtle Creek Casino is quite light on entertainment. While we were there the only things advertised in the way of entertainment was a forthcoming "Battle Of The Bands" and a recurring local bluegrass act. I didn't even see a place for the entertainment, but it is clear Turtle Creek is not prioritizing bringing big acts in to the area.

Dining Options

We arrived at Turtle Creek in the morning before lunch but after breakfast (where we pretty much gorged ourselves). As a result, I did not try their buffet, though they did have one (will update after my next trip there to detail how the buffet is!). Those who were coming out of it seemed pleased with it.

In addition, there was a coffee bar, a sit-down restaurant, and two bar stations on the gaming floor. For easy refreshment, there is a drink station with coffee and soft drinks. This was not clearly marked as self-serve (I only learned that it actually was by checking out the Turtle Creek website when I returned home!). Knowing it is now, though makes the concept a bit nicer.

Shopping Options

Unlike Las Vegas casinos, Turtle Creek 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.


Turtle Creek is fun in the Midwest and it offers decent gaming options, but for those not into video slots, there is not much to recommend it. Still, as one who likes a trip every once in a while to a casino, Turtle Creek is likely to become my new "local" casino. Objectively, this is a good (not great) casino experience.

For other casino reviews, please check out my takes on:
Mohegan Sun At Pocono Downs
Hollywood Casino At Penn National Raceway
Mohegan Sun


For other travel reviews, please be sure to visit my Travel Review Index Page!

© 2012, 2009 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
Rosewood Mansion on Turtle Creek

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