Winstar casino oklahoma Casino in oklahoma Winstar casino in oklahoma Choctaw casino oklahoma Choctaw casino durant oklahoma Casino in oklahoma city Casino oklahoma city Winstar casino hotel oklahoma Winstar world casino oklahoma Largest casino in oklahom. Oklahoma casino may pull Texas gamblers away from Shreveport, Texas Travel, Dallas News

DURANT, Okla. - Gamblers like Brian Heath probably worry casino owners in Shreveport, La. Casino oklahoma.

A high-dollar-limit slot player, Heath is used to driving the three-plus hours east from his Dallas home to Shreveport's riverboat casinos, where he likes to play at the Horseshoe casino. He often drives his 40-foot-long RV, complete with four big friendly dogs.

But now Heath is eating in the buffet of the new Choctaw casino, a $300 million, 12-story tower with 3,000 slots in tiny Durant, Okla. - just an hour and a half from Dallas.

"I think they're scared in Shreveport," he said. "I'd put this hotel up against the best out there."

The Choctaw expansion, the tribe's largest and most ambitious, raises the stakes in the border wars for North Texas gamblers and could shift more business away from Louisiana, observers say.

Oklahoma's border casinos bring in more than $1.5 billion annually, 90 percent of that coming from visitors from the D-FW area either by car or tour bus. But before the new Choctaw's opening this month, there's been nothing near its scale and opulence for gamblers to choose from.

"A more attractive new product will draw traffic, and casinos are setting the bar higher and higher," said Steven Light, co-director of the Institute for the Study of Tribal Gaming Law and Policy at the University of North Dakota. "They've seen incredible revenue growth in Oklahoma."

Oklahoma tribal casinos have been the fastest-growing group in the nation for four years, according to the National Indian Gaming Commission, outpacing all other gaming clusters by a wide margin.

The latest figures for 2008 showed nearly 18 percent revenue growth for casinos along the Texas-Oklahoma border, as Choctaw and the Chickasaw Nation's competing Winstar World Casino just over the state line off Interstate 35 have poured hundreds of millions of dollars into more machines, larger casinos and heavy marketing campaigns in North Texas.

Fueling the increase is a 2004 law change that allowed the Oklahoma tribes to offer "Las Vegas-style" games and slot machines in exchange for paying a small portion of the revenue to the state, Light and other experts said. Oklahoma collected $106 million from gaming in its 2009 fiscal year.

Although the tribal casinos aren't required to give updates on revenue to regulators, Oklahoma casinos have felt some of the pinch from the recession. Still, senior gaming director Tammye Gwin said that Choctaw's other properties are seeing stable business and that the new casino's huge opening was "very successful."

Winstar casino oklahoma Casino in oklahoma Winstar casino in oklahoma Choctaw casino oklahoma Choctaw casino durant oklahoma Casino in oklahoma city Casino oklahoma city Winstar casino hotel oklahoma Winstar world casino oklahoma Largest casino in oklahom

Winstar officials say their facility's size - it calls itself the third-largest casino in the world, with its tentlike casino stretching a half-mile - and latest attractions, including its own 12-story hotel, will win it business no matter what the competition does.

"Our long-term goals in gaming were built with competition in mind - not only from other casinos but online gaming as well. Our response to that is to provide better customer service in our casinos than our competitors," said Bill Lance, chief executive of the Chickasaw Nation's commerce division.

It's a different story in Shreveport, where casino revenue is falling year-over-year in double digits, according to the latest data. The six casinos there - the last of which opened in 2000 -emphasize that they offer more types of games and better customer service, downplaying the Choctaw expansion.

"I expect its impact on the Shreveport-Bossier market to be minimal," said Geno Iafrate, general manager of Horseshoe Bossier City and Louisiana Downs, two hotel-casinos operated by Harrah's Entertainment Inc. "Our market offers tremendous variety and choice not offered by Oklahoma casinos."

The revenue drop stems as much from the economy as the Oklahoma expansions, said Sean Demeule, marketing director for Shreveport's Boomtown casino.

"Certainly, both are having an impact," he said. "The tough economic climate has caused many guests to reduce their entertainment budget."

An advantage for Shreveport, Demeule said, is that Choctaw visitors cannot visit other properties if they feel slot machines are too "tight," meaning they don't pay off as frequently for players. In Shreveport, there are other options to try.

On the other hand, he said, the shorter drives to border casinos are attractive to North Texas gamblers, especially during the middle of the week.

Then there's the liquor issue: Hard drinks are served to gamblers in Louisiana and at Winstar, but not at Choctaw, which serves wine only at its steakhouse and drinks only to groups that hold meetings at the facility.

The absence of liquor for gamblers shows up on customer surveys, and the Choctaw tribal council is weighing whether to add liquor. But no decisions have been made, Choctaw casino officials said, and the issue remains sensitive in the tribe.

Winstar casino oklahoma Casino in oklahoma Winstar casino in oklahoma Choctaw casino oklahoma Choctaw casino durant oklahoma Casino in oklahoma city Casino oklahoma city Winstar casino hotel oklahoma Winstar world casino oklahoma Largest casino in oklahom

"The Choctaw Nation has had a long-standing tradition of not serving alcohol at any of our seven properties," said Janie Dillard, executive director of gaming for the Choctaw Nation.

However, she added: "We are taking our guests' comments about alcohol into consideration and will continue discussing alcohol sales at the casino."

"I'm actually glad they don't serve it," said Steve Brown of McKinney, who visits Choctaw's Durant location about once a month. He used to go to Shreveport, "but it all looks old and faded, and the slots got real tight after the hurricanes," he said.

"If they have the drinks, they get those young kids who get crazy. I had one drunk guy following me around asking me for money. They don't have that problem here."

The Choctaw folks aren't mincing words when comparing what they have to offer vs. their Shreveport competitors. They think they've introduced a new standard of amenities that, combined with the shorter travel time, makes it compelling.

"We're giving our guests the amenities they told us they wanted," Gwin said.

For high-dollar players such as Heath, the extras at Choctaw could make a difference in where his family stays and plays. The new spa uses vegan products from France, while the hotel's gym and two huge pools give his wife, Patty, and daughter Angela things to do while he's at the machines.

"I think we'll be coming here a lot," Patty Heath said.

The new tower at Choctaw triples the square feet set aside for slots and table games from what was available at the original casino, which opened in 2006. It adds 330 rooms, including large suites for its best customers, in a distinct building with curved architecture meant to evoke flowing water.

Small touches such as different foam densities on bed pillows and flat-screen televisions elevate the rooms, which vary in price from $99 to $149, depending on day of the week and resort occupancy.

Winstar casino oklahoma Casino in oklahoma Winstar casino in oklahoma Choctaw casino oklahoma Choctaw casino durant oklahoma Casino in oklahoma city Casino oklahoma city Winstar casino hotel oklahoma Winstar world casino oklahoma Largest casino in oklahom

The hotel and casino are full of design cues that link to Choctaw Nation heritage: The diamonds in the ceilings are important symbols to the tribe and evoke local diamondback rattlesnakes. Colorful support beams are based on tribal beadwork. A statue of a huge white buffalo - an animal sacred to the tribe - greets visitors in the lobby in front of a curtain of water.

The new casino also uses modern pricing for restaurants and rooms. Historically, many casinos priced buffets, rooms and other perks at less than their costs in hopes of bringing visitors in to gamble for a $5 meal.

In contrast, the new Choctaw buffet costs more than $14 without a drink and before a tip; all nine restaurants have self-sustaining pricing and don't require subsidy from the casino. That's one of the reasons why the Choctaw Nation built the $300 million tower without taking on any debt.

While there are plans to update the look and feel at the six other Choctaw properties in Oklahoma, the tribe's attention has been on the Durant expansion, which adds nearly 900 jobs to the 1,000 already there.

The expansion is seen as just another step on a master plan for the site that could later include golf courses or more gaming space.

"It's the pride of the tribe," Gwin said.

Posted by at 12:44AM

Tags: winstar casino oklahoma casino in oklahoma winstar casino in oklahoma choctaw casino oklahoma choctaw casino durant oklahoma casino in oklahoma city casino oklahoma city winstar casino hotel oklahoma winstar world casino oklahoma largest casino in oklahom

Overall rating page: 3.82/5 left 64665 people.

Comments

There are no comments for this post "Oklahoma casino may pull Texas gamblers away from Shreveport, Texas Travel, Dallas News". Be the first to comment...

Add Comment