Wager on craps, roulette paying off for Cherokee Nation

01/08/2019 08:15 AM
Main Cherokee Phoenix
A roulette wheel sits ready for play at the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino on Aug. 20, 2018. Ball and dice games were officially opened that day for players. In roulette, players bet on red or black or odd or even numbers before a ball is dropped on the outer edge of a spinning wheel with numbers on alternate red and black pockets. The ball eventually loses momentum, passes through an area of deflectors and falls onto the wheel and into one of 38 colored and numbered pockets on the wheel. COURTESY
CATOOSA — Craps and roulette at Cherokee Nation casinos have proven “extremely popular” in the short time they’ve been offered, according to gaming officials.

Mickey Ward, who oversees all 10 of the nation’s casino properties as senior director of corporate gaming, said craps and roulette have attracted “an influx of guests that were not our regulars.”

“So it’s opened us to some of the guests that would normally travel to commercial gaming markets such as Tunica, Kansas City, etc., to play the actual real, live craps and roulette,” he said. “Our goal wasn’t to be the first to market, even though we were the first in the Tulsa area. We wanted to be sure we rolled it out the right way, had our staff properly trained, had all the necessary equipment on site.”

In August, after getting federal government approval, the nation’s flagship Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Tulsa was the first in Oklahoma to offer craps and roulette. The ball-and-dice games are now also offered at the West Siloam casino. Roulette is available at Roland with craps coming soon, Ward said.

“We have seen financial success,” Ward said. “We can’t share exact financials, but we’ve definitely seen an increase having these two games.”

Additional casino revenue benefits everyone, Ward added.

“First and foremost, the Cherokee Nation benefits,” he said. “The state of Oklahoma benefits.”

Ball-and-dice gaming is supported by the Oklahoma Education Association to increase school funding. Education officials anticipate the games will raise millions annually.

“The estimate was that it would be around $20 million to $25 million a year with some people saying double that,” Oklahoma Education Association president Alicia Priest said. “Money that’s generated from the tribal compact, like the dice and ball money, 80 percent of it goes into the (Education Reform Revolving Fund), which specifically supports schools. So a growth stream with dedicated revenue going into public education, that would meet our criteria of support.”

The addition of craps and roulette includes their electronic counterparts at other casinos, Ward said.

“It allows us to spread roulette and craps at some of our smaller properties that would not normally have table games,” he said. “For instance, our new Tahlequah expansion, which we’re opening in the spring of 2019, will have the electronic version of craps and roulette at that property.”

Craps and roulette will “reenergize” casino card games, which were ushered in with a 2004 compact, Ward said.

“That’s what we’ve seen,” he said. “It adds another layer of excitement to the existing games.”
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