Skip to comments.Oklahoma slots lure Texans, and hold 'em [Texas]
Posted on 06/25/2006 1:12:42 PM PDT by Dubya
DURANT, OKLA. - Alan Reese took about an hour to drive from his home in Dallas' northern suburbs to the blackjack tables of the new Choctaw Casino and Resort here, 10 miles north of the Red River.
"It's not even two counties away, straight up (U.S.) Highway 75," said Reese, 58, who also has visited the nearby Winstar Casino, run by the Chickasaw Nation, just past the state line on Interstate 35. "Makes you wonder how long Texas will take to see what's going on up here." ADVERTISEMENT
North Texans such as Reese are fueling a gambling boom in southern Oklahoma, where voters passed a referendum in late 2004 giving Indian tribes the right to offer poker, blackjack and Las Vegas-style slots.
The new casinos already have crimped the flow of Texas gamblers to northern Louisiana, and in the view of at least one gambling expert, they give casino advocates in Texas a clear example of how taxable gaming money is leaving the state.
"Shreveport attracts Texans, but these (Oklahoma casinos) are so close to the border and so dependent on Texas players, they're a little different," said Bill Thompson, a University of Nevada-Las Vegas professor of public administration who studies the gaming industry.
"They'll serve to increase the pressure on Texas. They can't have any other effect."
In May, the Durant-based Choctaw Nation opened its $60 million roadside casino-hotel-coliseum complex. It houses 2,100 slot machines, 32 blackjack tables, a high-tech 100-seat off-track betting parlor and an 18-table poker room where on a recent Friday afternoon, 10 games of the popular Texas Hold 'Em were under way.
A new 128,000-square-foot coliseum behind the casino has hosted acts such as Reba McEntire, Montgomery Gentry and Sammy Kershaw. "This is southern Oklahoma. You'd never see this kind of big-name entertainment here. You'd have to drive to Dallas," said Janie Dillard, the nation's executive director of gaming.
Instead, it seems, Dallas is driving here.
Expanding already As the wide parking lot filled with cars and trucks eight out of every 10 bearing Texas plates Dillard described how the 102-room hotel has proved to be far from adequate. "Every weekend we bus 200 people to rooms around Durant or in Sherman/Denison," she said, referring to twin towns across the river in Texas.
As a result, she said, the resort has committed to building a hotel tower of at least 300 rooms and a convention center.
"We can't be shipping people off the property," she said.
All of this has come without any major marketing, although the Choctaws say they get some benefit from extensive TV advertising by Winstar extolling the convenience of Oklahoma for Dallas-Fort Worth players with the slogan, "Half the distance. Twice the fun."
"Before we opened the new facility we had people waiting in lines for the machines, so we didn't want to advertise," Dillard said.
At the Winstar which is 85 miles from Dallas, compared with 188 miles from Dallas to Shreveport the tribe is adding an 18-hole golf course. Managers say they expect more than 1.3 million visitors in 2006.
A bite out of business Despite the fact that the Choctaws and Chickasaws don't serve liquor, and table games such as craps or roulette are not on the gambling menu, they have taken a bite out of business at the six full-service casinos in Shreveport-Bossier City, La., officials there said.
"In the first quarter they were open in 2005, we were down 17 percent," said Wade Duty, executive director of the Casino Association of Louisiana, which represents most of the major casinos in the state. "Regrettably, with the Indian casinos in Oklahoma we will see either flat growth or business will continue to erode."
Much of the business has been siphoned off from Dallas-Fort Worth, he said. It doesn't matter that the tribal casinos don't offer a full variety of table games because in most gambling halls, slots generate 80 percent of the revenue.
"There's no doubt Texas and Dallas-Fort Worth is our primary market," said Dillard, at the Choctaw Casino, where the slots denominations run from a penny to $25 and the ringing and buzzing of the garish machines is almost deafening.
The tribe runs 12 Texas buses each weekend to as far away as Houston, San Antonio and Victoria. Only four or five buses go to Oklahoma cities.
The Choctaws have hosted bingo in a 700-seat hall since 1988 and continue to offer the game, which is big with seniors, on the weekends.
Dillard says she is asked frequently by the tribe's governing council what would become of their large investment if Texas were to legalize casino gambling, which fuels almost 80 percent of the tribe's annual budget.
"We'll have to work with that when it takes place, and one day Texas will have gambling," she said. "Of course they are going to. We fought over it for years here. But the argument finally won out that our dollars were going out of state and we don't have enough money for our schools, our teachers aren't getting enough pay."
She said the tribal casinos pay taxes on a sliding scale up to 6 percent of revenues.
The Choctaws, who inhabit a 10-county region in the southeastern part of the state, are similarly upgrading a casino on the Arkansas state line across from Fort Smith, adding a hotel and more slots, Dillard said. "We weigh what Arkansas will do, and we expect one day they'll have gaming, too," she said.
Ellis plans bill on gaming Already, an aide to key gambling proponent and Texas state Sen. Rodney Ellis, D-Houston, said the lawmaker plans to sponsor a gaming bill in the 2007 session, perhaps similar to the statewide referendum he proposed last year that would have allowed construction of up to 12 casinos. The aide said he expects racetracks, which want to add slot machines to compensate for declining revenues, to be the state's most organized gambling proponents.
State Rep. Charlie Geren, R-Fort Worth, who co-sponsored the Ellis bill last year, said casino gambling already is available, illegally, on every Internet connection in Texas.
"I can sit at home and play all those games online right now," said Geren, who explained he sponsored the measure last year only because he wanted to give voters a choice.
State legislators refused for years to allow pari-mutuel wagering at horse and dog tracks or create a state lottery. But once those issues went before voters in 1987 and 1991, respectively they won easy approval.
Still, Geren said the Legislature is far from warming to casinos. "It just isn't going to pass," he said, citing resistance from opponents on moral grounds as well as from Louisiana casinos.
"I spent a lot of time on it and I'm not going to do it again," Geren said. "There's no reason hitting your head against the wall unless it's going to give a little. I don't think it will at this time."
This is no different than the fact that Southern Alabama gamblers keep the Mississippi coast casinos in business, but God forbid that the Southern Baptist Convention would ever back off their recalcitrance on this.
SBC resisting the organized crime and the business of making people destitute, how dare they!
No problem with them having positions on moral issues, the key word is, moral issues. Legalized gambling is entirely an issue regarding free enterprise and economic concerns. What kept the Biloxi strip humming was the fact that every weekened, the garages of those casinos would be filled with people from Metro Mobile and Metro Pensacola, who had driven to the nearest center of legalized gaming.
If the Baptists would just allow us to legalize it in our corner of the state, we're not asking for casinos in areas that firmly hold onto all the teachings of the SBC, we just want casinos in the city, and maybe on the beach. I think if we did that, the business in Mississippi would evaporate overnight, at least on the shore, and then we could take their place as the gaming mecca of the South, with all the benefits that go along with it.
God forbid this would happen though, because the Hank Erwin's of the world have to dictate their will to everybody or else there is some evil in the world.
Yikes! On first glance I misread 'slots'.
"Gambling is wrong and immoral and will only bring misery, evil, and destitution to Texas." Typical Family Values Response.
And then in the next breath they will ask what Mega Millions is up to and that there late for bingo.
Why not put it to a vote?
While everyone continues to voice their concerns about legalities, economics and morals, in Texas. Thousands of people continue to track across the TX-OK border to wager their money in what they presume to be a legitimate venue. What really is the definition of gambling?
American Heritage Dictionary states: (A) To bet on an uncertain outcome, as of a contest. (B) To play a game of chance for stakes. (C) To take a risk in the hope of gaining an advantage or a benefit. In the case of the people heading from Texas to the Winstar Casino all most all of them will have gambled and lost by the time the idea to go there first entered their mind. Problem is they dont know it. Since the definitions here make no references to fair game, fair play or any of that I would have to say (c) would be the best answer since it uses the word "Hope" (A) Says "Uncertain Outcome" (B) Says "Game of chance". When the outcome is already determined how could it be a game of chance. There are many who would dispute this theory but I contend that if casinos have the option of altering the out come by manipulation, resetting, voiding or other forms that affect the random probabilities of winning a game then the outcome to some extent is defined. Statements such as 93% percent daily payout could only be made true by manipulating the machine to assure such a payout occurs.
The point here is this particular casino has engaged in some pretty unethical practices some of which I have observed myself. Other issues have been featured in news investigations while employees of the casino have admitted others. All anyone has to do is just go in there take a seat at a blackjack table and ask them why they charge you 50 cents per hand to play. No its not illegal but it certainly is immoral when they tell you the State of Oklahoma mandates that the casino charges this fee. Then to further add such BS as the money is used to buy Native Americans schoolbooks and such. They have continued with this lie for 2 years now. Some of the dealers who are obviously told to say this actually believe it.
Unfortunately a large majority of the gambling public are unaware of just how unregulated some Native American casinos can be. At Oklahoma's Winstar Casino they are a class II type operation, which for them pretty much means self regulating. The NIGC doesnt seem to care much, Oklahoma's Attorney Generals office stated there is not much they can do about irregularities involving Native American Casinos and that was in response to a death threat sent by the casino to a customer challenging the casino regarding a jackpot win they voided. With nobody policing such establishments and the fact the casino knows that, why not cheat the people. Hell you almost have to feel sorry for them. The casino that is, being put in such a tight spot, talk about a rock and a hard place, on one hand if they do; their immoral, unethical, well just down right cheaters. On the other hand if they dont well their stupid, honest but stupid. As someone who has been there for extended periods of time and not seen one jackpot, for any amount, hit by anyone, where they advertise over 2,200 slots is criminal. Stupid, no, no theyre not stupid. According to the projected figure I last saw advised of $200,000,000.00 from their casino operations this year and all in a cash business. Yikes, who really knows what the actual take was. Heres one way you can look at it. It might start getting to be a little tougher to fill that collection plate on Sunday when the Winstar swindles you out of all your money on Friday night. At this rate Im just going to skip the idea of having to learn Spanish as a second language and just learn Iroquois or Cherokee.