TULSA, Okla. – Casinos operated by the state's American Indian tribes that are located near the state's borders are proving especially profitable.
State Treasurer Scott Meacham estimates that 25 percent of total casino revenues in Oklahoma come from out-of-state pockets, particularly people from Texas, Kansas and Missouri who cross the border to gamble.
"We think that number is a modest estimate," he said.
The Choctaw Nation, Kiowa Tribe, Chickasaw Nation, Comanche Nation, Cherokee Nation, Tonkawa Tribe and several Ottawa County tribes are among those operating casinos located near a border.
The only major highway border crossing without a casino is Interstate 40 in western Oklahoma, where the state borders Texas.
The Tonkawa Tribe built its Native Lights Casino along U.S. Highway 77 near the Kansas border. The Choctaws has a casino in Pocola, near the Arkansas state line, and the tribe spent $18 million to refurbish it. They also operate border casinos in Durant and Grant.
Janie Dillard, the Choctaw Nation's executive director of gambling, said 68 percent of the Pocola casino's customers come from out of state. She said the tribe focuses its marketing efforts in western Arkansas communities including Fort Smith, Fayetteville and Van Buren.
Two tribes located nearer to Texas, the Kiowas and the Comanches, operate casinos in Devol within walking distance of each other. Oscar Codopony, the Comanche Nation Gaming Commission chairman, said gamblers from Texas routinely walk between the two facilities.
"We watch the dollars, and we can see that the Red River site does outperform our Lawton facility," Codopony said.
According to the National Indian Gaming Commission, Oklahoma has about 94 Indian casinos.