Last week Byron Bighorse, CEO of Osage Casinos addressed the Osage Nation Congress’ Commerce and Economic Development Committee to lay out a proposal to expand the Osage Nation Gaming Enterprise’s 10 year old, 47,000 square foot Osage Casino on 36th Street in Tulsa. If approved, the current plan would see the event center (where the poker room is now located) demolished to make room for a six-story hotel with 126 rooms and six suites. According to Tulsa World, a new casino floor would be created behind the hotel on the west end of the property. Total floor space would almost double to 88,000 sq ft and include an additional 200 slots machines, 10 news table games, and a new five table poker room.
Additional or eventual changes would include convention space with a ball room and flexible space, a parking garage, sports bar and grill, cafe, and new casino bar.
The plans, scaled back from earlier proposals, would need to be approved by the Osage Congress, which is set to convene Tuesday.
Osage casinos fund more than 90 percent of the tribal government’s services with the Tulsa property accounting for 44 percent of the net income for the entire gaming enterprise, according to Bighorse. This would be the fourth renovation of an Osage property since 2011. The Osage Enterprise owns and operates six other casinos. The immediate market is seeing refurbishment and expansion by the Muscogee (Creek) Nation who are investing $365 million in their RiverSpirit Casino and the Cherokee Nation’s is working on an outlet mall next to their Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Tulsa in Catoosa.
No firm price tag for the project was released as it is considered confidential and proprietary as noted in Osage News when the 2015 gaming plan was passed by a vote of 12-0 early this year. However, the tribal news outlet reported then that Osage Chief Standing Bear had said in Facebook conversations on January 24th that the project had been trimmed to $405 million (a reduction of $50 million) and was then reduced to, “a more reasonable $240 million and we still are taking every measure to make sure we build and operate within a profit window with a guarantee of funding distribution to Osage Nation. That means investing cash and borrowing.”
The project will not likely to be a shoo in. Congressional Speaker Maria Whitehorn told Osage News on Friday that, “The price of the new casino will be more than any project the Nation has ever executed. Government growth and capital expansion of casinos simultaneously without financial planning are reckless.”
Congresswoman Alice Buffalohead, addressing the overall budget for the session said, “The $40 million, per year, we receive from the Osage Casinos used to be enough to run our government, but that isn’t the case anymore.
“It is never easy to cast a ‘no’ vote, but it is a reality we are likely to see this session. Not all of the fall session legislation has been filed yet and I have already seen a few budget revisions. I am currently working with the Osage Tax Commission and the Osage Casino on amending a few laws.”