During this year’s regular session of the Texas Legislature, members of the casino industry lobbied lawmakers to loosen the state’s rules on gambling. Casino gambling is only legal in Texas at a few casinos owned by Native American tribes. Lobbyists say a lot of the money is going outside of Texas to states like Oklahoma, where casino gambling is legal.
The lobbying effort didn’t do much to change the rules in Texas. And it looks like Oklahoma could be setting itself up to gain even more.
Dallas Morning News business reporter Alexandra Skores told Texas Standard that a major expansion to the Choctaw Casino in Durant, Oklahoma is aimed squarely at attracting North Texans. The facility includes a new sky tower with 1,000 new hotel rooms, six restaurants and 3,300 slot machines.
“About two-thirds of its patrons are from the Dallas-Fort Worth area, and 80% of their patrons are Texans,” Skores said.
Oklahoma casinos actively advertise in Texas, buying large highway billboards intended to persuade residents to cross the border to gamble.
Skores says the Choctaw expansion is driven by demand from Texans.
“The demand’s there. They want to stay in the resorts. They want to do the entertainment. They want to try all these new slots and table games,” Skores said.
For the casinos and the states, like Oklahoma, where they’re located, revenue generated by Texans is essential, Skores says.
And as fears about the pandemic ease, Skores says casinos are starting to return to prepandemic customer numbers.