Oklahoma — where the wind comes sweeping down the plain. Too often, those winds come in the form of destructive tornadoes. Alongside the state’s position in Tornado Alley, Oklahomans now also have to deal with earthquakes from fracking. To balance out all the potential for disaster, Oklahoma residents and visitors have tremendous options for casino play.
Oklahoma does not have laws permitting or prohibiting playing online. However, this situation means Oklahomans should probably refrain from visiting gambling sites, even if the sites accept Oklahoma residents as members. Gambling in unauthorized locations is prohibited in Oklahoma. Players don’t want to find themselves having to argue the ins and outs of the law in court.
But there is some good news. In March 2016, the state government stood back from the Iowa Tribe of Oklahoma’s plan for an online poker site. That declaration cleared the way for a judge to authorize the launch of pokertribe.com.
Unfortunately, it would appear the tribe chose its site development partner poorly. The site has missed several announced dates for debuting its real-money operations. Even more troubling is the fact that the National Indian Gaming Commission announced an investigation into the business dealings of Universal Entertainment Group, the Florida developer behind pokertribe.com. For right now, the site exists only as a free-play option. Sadly, the site proclaims a “Winter 16/17” launch for its real-money option, a timeframe that has now expired.
Thus far, no other tribe or operator has made much progress in Oklahoma. Furthermore, the Oklahoma Senate just shot down an expansion of land-based gambling. This does not portend well for forays into the online space,.
Likely online poker operators
|Iowa Tribe of Oklahoma||www.pokertribe.com|
|Eastern Shawnee Tribe||www.feeltherush.com|
Social casino options
Pokertribe.com can most accurately be described right now as a social poker game. Players can become members and log on to the site, presumably with the notion that the transition to real-money will be painless when and if it occurs.
The bigger player in the Oklahoma market is the Chickasaw Nation. This tribe owns 21 properties across the state, including Winstar World Casino. The tribe just launched a social online platform to dovetail with its land-based offering for Winstar — winstaronlinegaming.com.
Indigo Sky Casino in Wyandotte also offers its own social gaming platform, feeltherush.com. The casino allows players to sample its table games free of charge. This is a savvy marketing strategy to educate patrons who may be intimidated by some of the newer games.
Other than that, the standard options for social gaming are available on Facebook and mobile devices. There is Slotomania, Double Down Casino, Big Fish, and Zynga. Players may also access MyVegas. This allows players to accumulate loyalty points redeemable at select MGM properties and partners. The nearest option to Oklahoma would likely be the Gold Strike in Tunica, Mississippi. Residents could also hop a short flight to Las Vegas. This would yield a tremendous number of options – all freely gained, so long as the player is willing to put in the time.
State casino operator history
No state in the US has benefitted more from the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act of 1988 than Oklahoma. The act allows federally recognized tribes to negotiate deals (or compacts) with their resident states in order to conduct gaming operations on tribal lands. In Oklahoma’s case, there are 38 recognized tribes.
Thirty-three of those tribes have negotiated compacts with the state. Most of those tribes own at least one casino property – as mentioned above, the Chickasaw Nation owns 21. These compacts have led to a state with roughly 100 casino properties (an exact figure is challenging to obtain). As a result, there may not be another state with more concentrated gambling across its entire territory. (Oklahoma is only 70,000 square miles in area.)
The other aspect of Oklahoma’s great spread of casinos is the state’s proximity to Texas. The large neighbor to the south has few options for its citizens to gamble. As a result, billions of Texas dollars flow across the Red River each year. The most obvious recipient of that influx of wealth sits a mere mile over the border – Winstar World Casino and Resort.
The granddaddy of casinos
Winstar World Casino and Resort began life as a bingo hall in 1991 in Thackerville, Oklahoma. It was literally just a tent – albeit a well-lit and appointed tent – and remained so for 13 years. Then, a year after an expansion of the bingo hall, Winstar began offering a few electronic gaming options. After four years, the property had expanded its offerings to include off-track betting, a poker room, four restaurants, and a theater.
The next year, Winstar finished the first and largest of its expansions, doubling the casino floor space to 380,000 square feet. Subsequent expansions in 2012 and 2013 brought the total floor space north of 500,000 square feet. The exact size is unclear. What is clear is that it’s the largest casino in the US, and either the largest or second-largest in the world. (The other being the Venetian Macao.)
As proof that Winstar’s size is not a fluke, several other casinos in the state have gaming space in excess of 100,000 square feet. One of the largest casinos in the state, Choctaw Casino Resort in Durant, is also the second-nearest casino to the Dallas-Fort Worth area. Riverwind Casino in Norman offers over 200,000 square feet of gaming space. This is music to the ears of anyone visiting the University of Oklahoma. River Spirit Casino in Tulsa boasts 300,000 square feet of gaming space and 2,400 slot machines.
All in all, things are pretty rosy for gamblers in the Sooner State. However, two games you will not find in these casinos are craps and roulette. Due to the compacts negotiated and their adherence to existing Oklahoma law, games of chance with cards are the only type allowed – dice or balls are not. Some casinos (like Winstar) have electronic versions of these games, but not the real thing. It doesn’t look like the situation will change very soon. The state legislature just voted down a bill to allow these very games into the state.
Also, be prepared to pay an extra bit on the side of each table game. The state allows the casinos to charge a commission for each dealt hand, which effectively bumps up the house edge. So, for each hand of blackjack, for example, players must pay a $0.50 surcharge, meaning that the risk on a $5 bet is actually $5.50, with only a $5 potential win.
Notable land-based casinos
|Winstar World Casino and Resort||Thackerville||S, BJ, P, BI, K, PGP, 3C, UTH, MBac, OTB|
|Choctaw Casino Resort||Durant||S, P, BJ, LR, 3C, UTH, B, R (card-based), C (card-based), PGP, OTB|
|Riverwind Casino||Norman||S, P, BJ, B, 3C, R (card-based), C4, UTH, OTB|
|Indigo Sky Casino and Hotel||Wyandotte||S, P, OTB, BI, HCF, 3C, 4C, Four Card Frenzy, Four Card Stud, WPT Heads-up Hold’em|
|Downstream Casino Resort||Quapaw||S, P, BJ, 3C, PGP|
|Grand Casino Hotel & Resort||Shawnee||S, P, K, BJ, R (card-based), C (card-based), UTH, 3C|
|River Spirit Casino/Margaritaville||Tulsa||S, P, BJ, C (card-based), UTH, B|
|Hard Rock Hotel and Casino||Catoosa||S, P, BJ, R (card-based), C (card-based), UTH|
*Slots (S), Craps (C), Blackjack (BJ), Roulette (R), Baccarat (B), Poker (P), Mini-Baccarat (MBac), Pai Gow Poker (PGP), Pai Gow Tiles (PGT), Let It Ride (LR), Caribbean Stud Poker (CS), Crazy 4 Poker (C4), 3 Card Poker (3C), 4 Card Poker (4C), Ultimate Texas Hold’em (UTH), High Card Flush (HCF), Mississippi Stud (MS), Texas Hold’em Bonus (THB), Big Six Wheel (B6), Bingo (BI), Keno (K), Off-track Betting (OTB)
State legal environment
|Permitted/Offered?||Notes & Restrictions|
|Land-Based Gambling||Yes||Tribal casinos only; no craps or roulette; table games charge commission|
|Charitable or House-Based Gambling||Yes||Bingo and raffles|
|Minimum Gambling Age||18 overall, though some casinos may be 21+ in order to serve alcohol|