From little bingo hall to world-class resort

Chris Jennings

An artist rendering shows the more-than-$500 million expansion of the Choctaw Casino & Resort.  The Nation anticipates it will open in the Spring of 2021 and will generate 1,000 more jobs.

On April 25 the Choctaw Nation broke ground on its largest project to date. Now on its third expansion of the Casino & Resort in Durant since 2006, the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma is not only breaking ground, but also breaking records with this latest growth spurt.

The number of hotel rooms will increase by 1,000, giving the casino and resort a total of more than 1,600 rooms, making it the largest hotel room count in the state.

Chief Gary Batton said, “Today is a special day for the Choctaw Nation as we embark upon an expansion journey that will result in a top-tier entertainment offering for our region and will spur economic growth for Durant and our state, plus new employment opportunities for our tribal and community members.”

Along with more rooms, the more-than-$500 million expansion will also bring an expanded game floor, new pools with a lazy river, larger parking garage, retail space, entertainment options and dining venues making the casino and resort a true destination.

“The expansion will go a long way in meeting the demands of our growing customer base,” said Batton.

The groundbreaking ceremony wasn’t all talk about potential new customers and their revenue stream.

Janie Dillard, senior executive officer of the commerce division, had praises to share all around, especially for the team that helped put the expansion efforts together, saying, “You do not do this with one person, you do it with a team of people.” Dillard went on to show appreciation to Chief Gary Batton, Assistant Chief Jack Austin Jr. and the tribal council for the trust and confidence they put in the team that put the expansion together.

The Choctaw Nation opened its first high-stakes bingo hall in 1987 on the same 55 acres the casino currently sits on. Dillard was emotional when speaking about the expansion project and the casino’s history. “I was here when we had 100 employees and we were broke. When
we made the first million dollars we thought...this is awesome. That’s [the bingo hall] the little house that made us,” said Dillard.

From the time the original bingo hall started making those large profits, the Nation has used that money to help its members. Each of the expansion projects and all of the other Choctaw businesses have been able to add to the offerings of the Nation. That money has helped many people.

“It helps to put more kids through college and build more hospitals. Our tribal members are our shareholders,” said Dillard.

The additional opportunities and resources that the expansion will bring to the area were not far from Batton’s mind either.

“To me it’s about the creation of jobs and opportunities for our tribal members and the community. They say the rising tide raises all ships so that’s what we’re going to do,” said Batton.

The Nation anticipates the expansion will open in Spring 2021 and will generate 1,000 more jobs for tribal and community members.

Biskinik June 2019