Oklahoma's Casino Business Is Booming

Monday, August 10th 2009, 4:48 pm
By: News On 6

By Jeffrey Smith, The News On 6

TULSA, OK -- Oklahoma's booming casino business is getting national attention. The economic recession means less people are traveling to gambling hotspots like Las Vegas and keeping their dollars in state.

The 15th Annual Oklahoma Indian Gaming Association Conference and Tradeshow is underway at the Tulsa Convention Center. The event is being held August 9-11.

The tradeshow has evolved over the years. The first tradeshow had four vendor booths. Fewer than 100 people attended. Now, the tradeshow and conference event is expected to have more than 160 vendor booths and nearly 3,000 attendees.

Indian casinos in Oklahoma saw an 18% spike in revenue last year.

"The staycation principle is working in Oklahoma and the tribes have responded with spending over a billion dollars in development the last 18 months," said David Qualls, Oklahoma Indian Gaming Association.

The way to keep customers coming back, officials say, is with new games and fancy technology. That's what the three-day casino tradeshow is all about.

The Creek Nation opened its $195 million River Spirit Casino five months ago.

Last week, the Cherokee Nation officially unveiled the $155 million expansion of its casino, rebranding the facility as the seventh Hard Rock Hotel and Casino.

Compare that to the country's most famous gambling spot, The Vegas Strip. Revenues there are down 16% compared to last year. It's the worst 18-month stretch for gaming revenues in Nevada history.

"The people that used to come to Las Vegas three to five times a year and bring that $500 to $1,000 are no longer doing that," said Brian Folger, Table Games Designer.

The vendors at the tradeshow showcase the hottest new games and lease them to casinos trying to entice new customers.

"You don't have to buy an airline ticket or pay for an expensive hotel room," said David Qualls, Oklahoma Indian Gaming Association.

Using a brand new game, you don't even have to leave the casino floor anymore to bet on a horse race.

Tulsa's three largest tribes, the Cherokee, Creek and Osage Nations, paid more than $22 million in gaming taxes to the state.