Construction under way on major casino expansion

Thackerville, Oklahoma (AP) 9-07

Work has begun on a 400-room hotel, a convention center and a major expansion of gaming space at the Chickasaw Nation’s WinStar casino in southern Oklahoma.

WinStar plans to have the casino and convention center expansion complete by fall 2008. The 11-story hotel should be finished by 2009, tribal officials said.

The expansion is expected to bring 1,100 more jobs to the casino on Interstate 35 in Thackerville. About 1,200 people work there now.

“We’re really excited about creating this great opportunity for the tribe and creating a unique experience for our customers,” said Brian Campbell, administrator for the tribe’s commerce division. “As we progress, it will also be good for the state of Oklahoma through additional revenue from the gaming compact.”

Brad Fortner, chief development officer, said a facade will be added to the existing tent-like structure for the casino. The facade will continue along the east side and wrap around the north side of an expanded steel structure to create a unified look in the style of a Tuscan city.

Inside the expansion will be five new casinos in the style of world capitals ranging from London and Paris to Rome, Madrid and Beijing, Fortner said.

The tribe also plans to build a 150-space RV park between its existing Microtel motel and its 18-hole golf course, which opened last summer. Meanwhile, the second phase of an access road expansion will start later this year. That will extend the road from Microtel down to I-35’s Exit 1, he said.

The new WinStar will overtake Riverwind, the Chickasaws’ sister casino south of Norman, as the state’s largest tribal gaming facility. When the expansion is complete, WinStar will have 6,000 electronic gaming machines and encompass 300,000 square feet. It currently has 2,100 machines in 190,000 square feet.

The Chickasaws’ casino attracts visitors from Texas, as do Louisiana casinos.

Drivers on both sides of the Red River are bombarded with billboards advertising either WinStar or any number of Louisiana casinos in the Shreveport-Bossier City area.

Information from: The Oklahoman,