Following an official deed signing in March of this year, which placed an over 100-acre site in trust, the federally recognized Shawnee Tribe of Oklahoma, along with its partner, Global Gaming Solutions (commercial business of the Chickasaw Nation), broke ground on the Golden Mesa Casino in the Oklahoma Panhandle on May 31st.

Located on a 107-acre site southwest of the city of Guymon, which is approximately 370 miles from the tribe’s headquarters in Miami, OK, the site was chosen by the tribe and its partners, Chickasaw Nation subsidiary, Global Gaming Solutions, due to land acquisition restrictions in the northeastern part of Oklahoma and opposition to previous projects in other areas of the state.

In support of the 42,309 square-foot casino entertainment center slated to open next year, Shawnee Chief, Ron Sparkman, along with Chickasaw Nation Gov., Bill Anoatubby, spoke at the ground-breaking ceremony for the facility named to honor the region’s natural beauty.

“Today is a great day for the Panhandle community and the Shawnee Tribe,” said Chief Sparkman. “We are thankful for the support we’ve received from the Guymon community and the Chickasaw Nation in bringing this economic opportunity to fruition. We look forward to working in tandem with community leaders and residents to build a better, stronger Panhandle.”

The once landless tribe pursued the casino under the two-part determination process outlined by the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act (IGRA) and nearly two years after first announcing the project, the environmental assessment was finalized by the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA), and soon after Oklahoma Governor, Mary Fallin, followed suit.

After being held up by the Trump administration for all of 2017, on January 19, 2018, approval of the Shawnee Tribe’s land into trust application was announced by U.S. Secretary of the Interior, Ryan Zinke, at a signing ceremony.

Approximately 150 people are expected to be employed by the long-awaited off-reservation casino, which will reportedly feature approximately 600 electronic gaming machines, eight blackjack tables on a 20,206 square-foot gaming floor, along with a restaurant and bar, retail and office space for the tribe. The entertainment venue was designed by architects to accommodate future phases of expansion, which could reportedly include a hotel with meeting and event space, 500 additional games and entertainment venue.

“Diversifying our economy with this entertainment center is a prudent and forward-thinking business decision that will benefit Guymon and surrounding areas,” Shawnee Development LLC Chairman Greg Pitcher said.

Architects have designed the casino entertainment center to accommodate future expansion because it is our belief that Golden Mesa will become a destination location and economic engine for the area for years to come,” explained Pitcher.

Chickasaw Nation Secretary of Commerce, Bill Lance, said that they expect the new casino and entertainment venue to attract visitors form a five-state region including Kansas, Colorado, Texas, New Mexico and Oklahoma. Lance explained, “These visitors will spend their dollars in the local economy, bringing real benefits – creating jobs, spinning off other businesses, generating tax revenues, not to mention the excitement created with this new entertainment venue,” according to the news agency.

Upon completion, the project is reportedly expected to generate $30 million annually for the approximately 2,500 member tribe.