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Oklahoma's Soon-to-be Largest Casino is Thriving; WinStar World Casino
 Adding a 400 room Hotel, Doubling Casino Space

By Debbie Blossom, The Oklahoman, Oklahoma CityMcClatchy-Tribune Regional News

Oct. 18, 2008 - Brian Campbell is a betting man.

And he's confident the country's flailing economy and financial meltdown won't make its way to the Oklahoma-Texas border, where a multimillion-dollar expansion project at the Chickasaw Nation's casino near Thackerville has hit the halfway mark.

Campbell, chief executive officer of the tribe's commerce division, said business at the state's soon-to-be largest casino is thriving.

"Casino business is historically a good bet in a recession," he said Thursday during a media day event to show off the expansion. "After 9/11, business went up."

WinStar World Casino is doubling its gaming space, adding a new events center and building a 400-room hotel and a 150-space RV park. It's also bringing 400 more jobs to the area, in addition to the 2,400 full- and part-time employees already working at the casino along Interstate 35.

What benefits are

For Oklahomans and Texans looking for a new job opportunity, WinStar is offering a solid benefits package with medical and retirement benefits and a gasoline voucher program for those making less than $50,000 a year. The casino has openings in guest services, cashiers, security, food and beverage and housekeeping.

Workers are needed to help staff the new casinos and several new restaurants with coordinating themes. The casinos are named and decorated to represent some of the world's most famous cities. The glittering Paris and Beijing casinos -- complete with fountains and ceiling murals -- are now open for customers, and Rome has just been opened to guests.

When the London and Madrid areas are completed at the end of the year, WinStar's gaming area will be at 380,000 square feet. Also just finished is a new, 2,800-seat event center that has already been booked for several holiday parties, said Gordon Sjodin, WinStar's project manager.

"We don't consider ourselves to be in the casino business. We consider ourselves to be in the entertainment business," Campbell said. "That's why we're trying to create an entertainment destination."

Proximity pays off WinStar is appealing to people who once had to travel to Louisiana or Mississippi to find casinos, but who can now choose to stay and spend closer to home.

Jacky and Shelley Mears tend to head to WinStar at least three nights a week from their home in Rio Vista, Texas, just south of Ft. Worth. But there is a financial reason behind their trips.

Business is way down at his used car dealership, Jacky Mears said, and in August, the couple won $58,000. "It helps pay our bills," he said.

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To see more of The Oklahoman, or to subscribe to the newspaper, go to http://www.newsok.com.

Copyright (c) 2008, The Oklahoman, Oklahoma City

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