DURANT, OK -- The city had a big day at the casino Thursday. But the winnings came in the form of new jobs - 700 permanent new jobs, to be exact.
Choctaw Casino held a groundbreaking ceremony to announce their plans for a major expansion.
The casino plans to add a 22-story hotel tower, movie theater, bowling alley, laser tag, 3-story convention center and addition gaming and dining space.
Janie Dillard, Gaming Department manager, said they wanted to make the facility more family friendly, offering amenities Durant currently lacks.
"We wanted to have more," she said. "We just didn't feel like we were meeting our guests' expectations."
Workers will start renovating the South Casino in October, architect John Wald said. They'll finish up that project in December, then begin work on the main expansion to the north in January, he said.
"We gotta make sure that there is no inconvenience to the customer and you've still got an operating facility that still needs to be open while all of this is going on," he said.
Wald said it could change the landscape of southeastern Oklahoma.
"You're truly gonna have a local entertainment center as well as a resort destination that's gonna be able to cater to the people that stay in the rooms with the spa, the convention space - all the amenities that make it a true resort," he said.
Durant and Choctaw officials both say the new jobs are huge for the area.
"We want to make sure that people in southeast Oklahoma, northeast Texas don't have to move off, away from their families," Chief Gregory Pyle said.
It's also a milestone for the Choctaw Nation itself - considering they started out with only 200 jobs in a tiny bingo hall.
"This is the biggest thing for this area we ever did," Pyle said.
Officials expect the expansion to be completed and open by the first quarter of 2015.