by Ted S. McGregor Jr.

Coeur d'Alene Casino

Outside Worley, Idaho * (800) 523-2464

Last summer, a Spokane man had a few minutes to kill before his tee time at the Coeur d'Alene Casino's Circling Raven Golf Course. Hmm... what to do... Not surprisingly, since he was at a casino, he plunked $3 on a Megabucks game. Also not too surprisingly, he won. OK, here's the surprising part: He won $1,070,824.

Individual results may vary, but one thing is certain here: You'll have fun trying to win the next big jackpot. The Coeur d'Alene Casino is the oldest of the Inland Northwest's two Vegas-style experiences, and the amenities at the complex are adding up -- golf course, resort hotel, the truly beloved High Mountain Steakhouse. Then there are the games -- more than 2,000 video pull-tab games in all. Plus there's bingo, off-track betting, craps, blackjack, along with lots of special events, like the upcoming (Feb. 12) dinner with Sopranos star Steve Schirripa (who plays Bobby Bacala). There are concerts (they've had Randy Travis, for example) and boxing matches, too.

The casinos of the Inland Northwest have added a lot to the nightlife possibilities -- and the local economy -- and it all started out in Worley with the Coeur d'Alene Tribe. So next time you've got a little time to kill... well, you know what to do.

Northern Quest Casino

Hayford Road and Hwy. 2, Airway Heights * 242-7000

The newest of our region's Vegas-style casinos is Northern Quest, an enterprise of the Kalispel Tribe. Since opening in Airway Heights, all it's done is grow, with what seems like one expansion after another. For gamers, it's good news because the expansions have brought more video pull-tab machines and space for other amenities -- along with more than 800 jobs. Northern Quest can handle 750 people for banquets now, and they just got done hosting a boxing match that was televised nationally last week. The casino plans to have more televised in the future, too, putting Spokane and the Inland Northwest on the map in the process.

You can't always play games, and luckily the food is good enough to rip you away from whatever you're glued to. The choices at the Rivers Edge Buffet are yummy and priced right. And sports fans will enjoy a break in Legends of Fire, the just-opened sports bar.

Everybody knows how to plunk coins in a video machine, but the other games take more time to master -- and they can be intimidating. Northern Quest offers free lessons in blackjack, roulette, craps, poker and even mini-baccarat. That way, you can sidle up to that crowded table and join the fun -- just like they do in Vegas.

Big Daddy's

3023 E. 28th * 535-2961

What was once a sleepy bowling alley on the South Hill (Silver Lanes) is now one of Spokane's busiest casinos (Big Daddy's). New expansion seems to be a regular occurrence, and Big Daddy's has jumped big onto the poker bandwagon that's sweeping the country; they have a poker room and daily poker tournaments. And if you start running dry at the blackjack tables, you can always rent a pair of shoes and bowl a few frames to get lady luck back on your side.

Bluz at the Bend

2721 N. Market * 483-7300

Combining the blues with gambling -- Duh! Riverboat casinos are around Memphis, and that's where the blues come from, right? Anyway, this newer casino has some old hands at the wheel who have been involved in the gaming scene for quite some time. That's why you'll find more high-tech digital gaming machines at Bluz at the Bend. They've got the value-added thing down, with live music (blues, of course) on Thursdays through Saturdays. And there's food until 2 am.

Two Rivers Casino

25 miles north of Davenport * (800) 722-4031

The Spokane Tribe's casino has a recreational edge to it, as it's a full-service resort, too. With RV hookups and a marina on Lake Roosevelt, you can fish in the morning; plug slots in the afternoon and chow down at the restaurant in the evening. As for the gaming, they've got your bases covered, with blackjack, roulette, craps, coin slots and three-card stud.

Others Worth Checking Out

Kootenai River Inn and Casino in Bonners Ferry; Classic Rock Casino at Lilac Lanes; Players & amp; Spectators; Ringo's; Ace's; Marilyn's on Monroe (opening later this month)

Publication date: 2/03/05

The Rum Rebellion: Prohibition in North Idaho @ Museum of North Idaho

Through Oct. 29, 11 a.m.-5 p.m.
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About The Author

Ted S. McGregor Jr.

Ted S. McGregor, Jr. grew up in Spokane and attended Gonzaga Prep high school and the University of the Washington. While studying for his Master's in journalism at the University of Missouri, he completed a professional project on starting a weekly newspaper in Spokane. In 1993, he turned that project into reality...