The WinStar World Casino and Resort in Thackerville, Okla., the self-proclaimed “World’s Biggest Casino,” is expanding its gaming operations for guests on the destination’s premises.
WinStar officials this week announced a new gaming app is being developed that will allow users to gamble for real money on their computer, phone, or mobile device.
Online casino gambling isn’t permitted in Oklahoma, but the tribe is allowed to offer Class I and II online gaming on its sovereign lands through the federal Indian Gaming Regulatory Act (IGRA). In October 2022, the National Indian Gaming Association determined the IGRA allows online gaming for federally recognized tribes on their Native American land.
That means when the WinStar gaming app debuts, it will only be accessible to patrons at the WinStar property. Interactive slots and table games won’t be allowed, but interactive bingo-based games will be offered.
WinStar is owned and operated by the Chickasaw Nation. Along with WinStar, its primary casino, the Oklahoma tribe runs 22 other casinos and gaming facilities throughout the state.
Speaking with The Oklahoman, Scott Emerson, undersecretary for operations at the Chickasaw Nation’s Department of Commerce, said the gaming app will provide convenient gambling access for on-site guests.
This is absolutely new to us,” Emerson said. “This is about creating optionality [for guests].”
Emerson said Aristocrat Leisure’s Anaxi interactive gaming unit is working with the tribe in developing the gaming app. Aristocrat is a leading business-to-business slot and iGaming manufacturer.
WinStar is a sprawling campus located less than two miles north of the Oklahoma-Texas border. The property’s nine casinos, called “gaming plazas,” each feature a unique city theme. The plazas include Beijing, Cairo, London, Madrid, New York, Paris, Rio, Rome, and Vienna.
Collectively measuring nearly 400,000 square feet of gaming space, the casinos house more than 10K slot machines and electronic games, plus 100 table games. The resort has more than 20 full-service restaurants across the nine world venues.
Emerson said the app is being tested with a limited number of invited guests. WinStar will begin rolling out the app and marketing it in early 2024.
Aristocrat will employ geofencing technology to prohibit the app from allowing real money gambling when the person using the technology isn’t physically located within the WinStar property.
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Oklahoma’s many tribes that operate Indian casinos are seeking sports betting privileges to keep their resorts competitive with commercial and tribal gaming destinations in nearby states. But tribal leaders and Gov. Kevin Stitt (R), who is a member of the Cherokee Nation, have struggled to find common ground on how to go about it.
Earlier this month, Stitt surprised the tribes by unveiling a sports betting package. The governor’s suggestion that the state venture into gaming by way of a single online sportsbook through a partnership with a commercial entity like DraftKings — while the tribes are only afforded in-person sports betting privileges — was quickly met with backlash.
Chickasaw Nation Commerce Secretary Dan Boren said it’s vital that Stitt work directly with the tribes in any consideration of gaming expansion, something tribal leaders say the governor has not done.
“We believe it is imperative to work together on important and complex issues such as this in order to develop agreements that honor the rights and responsibilities of federal, state, and tribal governments,” Boren said this month.