Osage Casinos broke ground on new casino-hotels this week in Pawhuska and Bartlesville.
The $90 million investment, which will go toward replacing existing entertainment venues at those locations, has been in the works for years. The Osage Nation applied with the U.S. Interior Department in 2014 to transfer the Bartlesville property into a federal trust for use in gaming. That was followed by the effort in Pawhuska.
“We received approval for both applications last summer and immediately got to work on adjusting the scope of the properties to accommodate today’s construction costs,” Byron Bighorse, CEO of Osage Casinos, said in a statement.
“Demand in both markets continues to rise, and I am proud that we worked together as an enterprise to see this come to fruition.”
Both the Pawhuska and Bartlesville facilities are scheduled to be completed by the fall of 2022.
The Pawhuska project will be spread over 60 acres, at 1421 John Dahl Ave., across Oklahoma 60 from its current location and will accommodate a 47-room hotel, 3,675 square feet of meeting space and 250 electronic games. It also will include a fitness center and pool and hot tub area.
The casino in Bartlesville will sit on 125 acres at 1803 U.S. 60, about 2 miles west of downtown, and include 86 luxury hotel rooms (15 suites) and 10,560 square feet of meeting space. The facility also will have full-service catering, a patio, fitness center and pool and hot tub area.
The Osage Tribe Gaming Enterprise Board provides oversight for the business arm known as Osage Casinos.
The Osage Nation uses revenues from the Osage Casinos to fund tribal government and programs, provide for the general welfare of the tribe and its members, promote tribal economic development, support charitable organizations and help fund operations of local government agencies of the Osage Nation.
Construction of the new establishments comes following a tumultuous 2020 for casino-hotels in the state because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Associated Press reported that commercial gaming revenue was down 31% nationally in 2020, compared to the previous year, according to the American Gaming Association.
But casinos in Oklahoma are not considered “commercial” because they operate on tribal trust land.
Commercial gaming is operated by private sector for-profit companies under applicable state laws. Tribal governmental gaming is operated by federally recognized tribal governments under the federal law known as the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act and applicable tribal laws for programs and services.
Matthew Morgan, chairman of the Oklahoma Indian Gaming Association, said earlier this year that he did not have specific figures of how much tribal casinos were down in 2020 but said it may not have been as bad as commercial casinos.
“I think we fared better than some of the other commercial properties,” he said.