Shooting Star Casino administrators see minimum wage increase as boost for workers and community

One year later, slot machines are ringing, and White Earth Tribal leaders have announced a new minimum wage increase for all tribal workers — including those at the Casino, where hundreds lost their job because of the pandemic.

MAHNOMEN, Minn. — It was exactly one year ago that the pandemic forced the shutdown of many businesses in the area, including the Shooting Star casino in Mahnomen.

Now, people are itching to get out of the house and play some slots and blackjack, but gamblers aren't the only ones coming back to Shooting Star Casino. Laid-off workers are returning to a just-announced $16 minimum wage.

"We just decided it was time, and with inflation being so high, we just had to invest in our employees," White Earth Tribal Chairman Michael Fairbanks said.

One year ago, with news of the pandemic, 750 workers left the casino as it shut down. They were without a job and unsure of their future. Now more than half have returned with news of better pay.

Fairbanks, along with the tribal council, approved the jump in minimum wage, knowing other employers in the region will also want new workers as the pandemic fades.


The new minimum wage is good news for more than just the tribe.

"It is going to impact our communities, our stores in our region and businesses in general," said Shooting Star Casino administrator Daniel "Scott" Stevens. "Our way of life is going to change."

Jacob Campbell supervises daytime security at the casino. He said the announcement of the wage increase comes at a perfect time.

"A lot of places have opened up," Campbell said. "It is always a competition, but now we are more competitive with other entities."

So far, White Earth — the largest tribe in Minnesota — is the only tribe to take this minimum wage jump.

Kevin Wallevand has been a Reporter at WDAY-TV since 1983. He is a native of Vining, Minnesota in Otter Tail County. His series and documentary work have brought him to Africa, Vietnam, Haiti, Kosovo, South America, Mongolia, Juarez,Mexico and the Middle East. He is an multiple Emmy and national Edward R. Murrow award recipient.

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