Iowa Tribe Begins Construction on Harrah’s Oklahoma Casino Resort

Posted on: August 30, 2023, 08:34h. 

Last updated on: August 30, 2023, 08:53h.

The Iowa Tribe of Oklahoma is embarking on its first tribal casino resort with global gaming giant Caesars Entertainment. The tribe announced this week that work will soon begin on the project, located in Chandler between Oklahoma City and Tulsa along Interstate 44.

Iowa Tribe Oklahoma tribal casino Caesars Entertainment
The Iowa Tribe of Oklahoma’s Cimarron Casino. The Iowa Tribe is ready to begin construction on its largest gaming project to date in a partnership with Caesars Entertainment. (Image: The Journal Record)

The Iowa Tribe is one of 38 federally recognized tribes in Oklahoma, most operating tribal casinos through Class III state compacts. Gaming is the economic lifeline for many sovereign nations, including the Iowa Tribe, which currently owns and operates two gaming properties.

The tribe’s Cimarron and Ioway casinos, however, are small gaming venues that respectively offer 600 and 250 slot machines. Cimarron additionally offers a few table games, and both feature restaurants.

The Iowa Tribe is betting bigger on its Chandler development in an effort to better secure the nation’s economic future. The Caesars-operated casino is to feature 1,000 slots, more than a dozen table games, and a hotel with resort amenities.

Construction Groundbreaking

The Iowa Tribe in May announced that it had selected Caesars Entertainment as the forthcoming casino’s management partner. Caesars will run the resort on the tribe’s behalf and share in its revenues.

Caesars says the tribal casino will be Harrah’s-branded. Harrah’s is the brand Caesars prefers to use for its tribal partnerships, though there are also commercial Harrah’s properties in 11 states.

Caesars’ tribal partnerships include two Harrah’s Cherokee casinos in North Carolina, Harrah’s Ak-Chin in Arizona, and two Harrah’s casinos in California. The latter is operated on behalf of the Rincon Band of Luiseno Indians and Buena Vista Rancheria of Me-Wuk Indians.

Caesars’ operating agreement with the Iowa Tribe expands on the casino company’s tribal partnerships.

We are honored to be selected by the Iowa Tribe of Oklahoma to help them achieve their goals. We’re looking forward to bringing Harrah’s to a new market,” said Robert Livingston, Caesars Entertainment’s senior vice president of development.

Tribal officials told local media this week that the resort will be constructed in phases, with the casino space and dining options first to be built. The hotel and resort will come later.

From start to finish, the project will take “a few years,” tribal leaders said.

Tribal Revenue

Chandler is located about 40 miles northeast of Oklahoma City and 60 miles southwest of Tulsa. Though I-44 connects the two most populated cities in the Sooner State, the Iowa Tribe’s two casinos in the corridor have been minor players in the Oklahoma tribal gaming industry.

Oklahoma taxes tribal slot revenue on a sliding scale. For the first $10 million in revenue, the tribes share just 4% with the state. For slot gross gaming revenue (GGR) ranging from $10 million to $20 million, the tax climbs to 5% and 6% for slot win upwards of $20 million. Table games are taxed at a flat 10%.

In Oklahoma’s fiscal year 2022, the Iowa Tribe’s tax responsibility was just $902,915. The state’s richest gaming tribe, the Chickasaw Nation, paid more than $71.8 million in gaming taxes that same year. The Choctaws paid over $42 million.