The growth of Indian gaming is apparent from many roads across Oklahoma. Casino billboards and busy parking lots are familiar sights. The average driver may not realize the new ways Oklahoma's tribal casinos are attracting customers. There are still plenty of machines and tables, but it's time to think beyond gaming.
It's no secret casinos like Choctaw Casino Resort, Hard Rock Casino and Downstream Casino (in Quapaw) are full-service resorts. Luxurious hotels with pools, business centers and ballrooms for various events are available. Dining, golf courses and shopping are other amenities offered. Many casinos such as Lucky Star offer a wide variety of live performances — from hometown to international acts — far from the two major metro areas. Smaller casinos also feature new ways to entertain more people. The Kaw Nation recently opened a smoke-free casino, SouthWind.
Most importantly, expanded amenities fuel tourism and service industries across Oklahoma. A 2012 economic study concluded that Oklahoma's tribal casinos account for more than 40,000 jobs and a $1.3 billion payroll. As the entertainment value grows, jobs and revenue will also increase. Monday through Wednesday, the newest gaming and entertainment options will be featured at the 19th annual Oklahoma Indian Gaming Association Tradeshow in Oklahoma City. More than 2,500 attendees have booked every available hotel room downtown to see what's next for tribal casinos.
As tribal gaming expands, it's fitting that OIGA will meet in Oklahoma City — a transforming community. Oklahoma City's vibrancy will be on full display to those attending “the biggest little show in Indian gaming.”
Brian Foster, Norman
Foster is chairman of the Oklahoma Indian Gaming Association and CEO of the Cheyenne and Arapaho Tribes of Oklahoma.