$600M Oklahoma Tribal Casino Expansion Targets Texas Gamblers, Experts Say

By | August 18, 2021

Oklahoma’s Choctaw Casino & Resort opened its $600M hotel and gaming floor addition earlier this month. It is seen as an added way to draw players from nearby North Texas.

Improvements include a 1,000-room, 21-story hotel, more gambling options
Oklahoma’s Choctaw Casino & Resort, pictured above. A new addition targets players from North Texas. (Image: KTRK)

The Durant, Okla. gaming property is approximately 14 miles from the border with Texas. It is some 88 miles to Dallas.

Improvements include a 1,000-room, 21-story hotel, more gambling options, and additional restaurants. There is also a collection of Choctaw art.

Texans account for the vast majority of gambling activity in Oklahoma,” Clyde Barrow, chairman of the political science department at the University of Texas – Rio Grande Valley, told Casino.org. He estimates Texans are probably spending $2.5 to $3.0 billion per year at Oklahoma casinos.

“This is no surprise at all,” Mark P. Jones, a political science fellow at Rice University’s Baker Institute, further told Casino.org when asked about the expansion.

“The Dallas Fort Worth [DFW] Metroplex has 6.4 million residents. When you add in adjacent areas of North Texas, the total population in the region is twice that of the entire state of Oklahoma.”

Oklahoma Dependent on Texas Gamblers

He points out that Oklahoma’s casino industry “has long depended on players from the Lone Star State.

Without Texans, most of the casinos in southern Oklahoma are not economically viable, as they depend heavily on Texas visitors to turn a profit, be it from the DFW Metroplex or from mid-sized metro areas such as Sherman and Wichita Falls,” Jones added.

Casino companies, especially Las Vegas Sands, have tried to open commercial gaming properties in Texas. But political opposition so far has prevented the move from getting enacted.

The Oklahoma casino expansion “will have a modest negative impact on efforts to open casinos in Texas,” Jones said.

He says as long as Greg Abbott is governor and Dan Patrick is lieutenant governor, both Republicans, prospects for casino gambling in Texas “will remain remote.”

Also, if Texas does ever open commercial casinos, “most of the southern Oklahoma casinos, such as the Choctaw Casino & Resort and the nearby Chickasaw Winstar World Casino & Resort, begin the process of either shutting down or substantially scaling back their operations,” Jones said.

But for now, “the more the Choctaw invest in casino expansion targeting Texas visitors, the harder they are going to work — via campaign donations and lobbying — to prevent the opening of casinos in Texas,” Jones added.

Reconsidering Texas Casinos

Proposals to legalize casinos will be back on the Texas legislative agenda in 2023, when the legislature next convenes in regular session, Barrow said.

Without any other local gaming option, Texans will visit neighboring states for recreation,” University of Houston political scientist Brandon Rottinghaus said.

“The demand for gaming is strong in large urban areas so proponents of expanded gaming in Texas can clearly show demand for the product.”

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