DURANT, OK - It looks like the bright lights of Las Vegas have come to Durant, Oklahoma, but it feels more like home with the Choctaw Nation.
"As you walk around you'll see numerous places that we have our heritage even the materials that we used are from this area many times,” said Choctaw Nation Chief Greg Pyle.
The floors of the new Choctaw Casino and Resort were already buzzing with activity at Tuesday's official grand opening.
"I've won a bit today and I don't usually win at the old one so it's good luck," said one visitor, Jeanie Gallinger from Pottsboro.
The new casino has over 3,000 new games and roughly 40 card tables spread over 120,000 feet. And it’s all of the gaming that actually funds many programs like scholarships for the Choctaw Nation.
"Head starts, daycares, we built our own hospital, we built five clinics, all out of gaming so it’s very important to us that this goes well,” said Pyle.
Pyle said it's not just the Choctaws that will benefit from the new casino. He said it also brings more business and job opportunities to Durant and surrounding communities.
"It created about 1,800 jobs here opening this property, so we have the lowest unemployment in the state right now here. A lot of people depend on this for their livelihood, for their family, so we're really proud of that,” said Pyle.
And many locals feel it’s a good investment in the city and feel the new casino will attract more people to the area.
"It's great to have this in Durant. Look what the other one brought in, and this one's even better, bigger and better, it's great,” said Durant resident Faye Self.
And while the champagne flowed for the celebration, one thing that hasn't changed from the old casino is having alcohol on the floor. Pyle said only wine will be served in the 1832 Steak House restaurant.
"We want everybody to have a good time and that just wasn't something that's in the tradition of our tribe," said Pyle.
From the visitors, to the staff and Choctaw leaders, everyone seemed thrilled to finally see the new casino get started off with a bang – literally. The fireworks show after the ribbon cutting could be seen for miles and was quite a sight over the casino.
"We just want to have the best experience anybody could have here and have a great time,” said Pyle.