What Gamblers Should Know About Oklahoma Casinos

Oklahoma State Outline With a Casino Background

102 casinos are in the state of Oklahoma, making it a surprisingly big casino destination in the United States.

After all, you don’t often hear people talking about Oklahoma as a gambling epicenter.

It’s not Nevada.

But they legalized casino gambling in Oklahoma in 2004, so the casino scene has exploded over the last decade and a half.

And, the state of Oklahoma has more casinos than any other states besides Nevada.

In this post, I’m going to look at some of the interesting details about the number of casinos in Oklahoma.

What Are the Casinos Like in Oklahoma?

Until recently, the only kind of casino gambling allowed in Oklahoma was gambling machine oriented and bingo oriented. In fact, even the gambling machines – both slots and video poker – were based on a bingo algorithm.

In fact, you could see on the face of all the machines in Oklahoma a bingo card which lit up with the electronic bingo results. These bingo results corresponded to the various slot machine reel combinations. It was easy to ignore, and the practical effect for the gambler was almost nil.

Now, of course, Oklahoma gambling has expanded statewide. The use of playing cards was the first restriction to loosen, and, for a while, you could play craps games and roulette games where the results were generated by using a deck of cards.

Even more recently, Oklahoma has legalized using dice and spinning wheels for their results.

Winstar World Casino Exterior

And they offer more traditional slot machine and video poker games, now, too.

As for what the casinos are like inside and out, it varies widely. The Winstar World Casino in Thackerville is literally the largest casino in the United States, and it offers many – if not most – of the same amenities that are available in a larger casino resort in Las Vegas.

Many local casinos, though, are small, non-descript buildings made of brick and filled with gambling machines. My understanding is that these smaller casinos target locals and have better payouts, but they don’t publicize specifics about their payout percentages.

Class II versus Class III Casino Games in Oklahoma

Class II casino games are games where the results are generated via a centralized computer system running the equivalent of electronic bingo games all day. From a legal perspective, this is a separate kind of gambling than regular slot machines or even blackjack.

Class II gaming includes bingo, electronic bingo, and pull tab machines.

For years, these were the only kinds of casino games available in Oklahoma.

Even the video poker games were tied into a Class II system, which meant that they were video poker “in name only.” In other words, the odds weren’t commensurate with what you’d see from a standard deck of 52 cards.

Class III gaming is what they offer in Las Vegas and many other traditional casino destinations. Traditional casino games like blackjack, craps, and roulette are all Class III games. Traditional gambling machines like slot machines and video poker – with their individual random number generators – are also in the category of Class II games.

You can tell the difference between the Class II games and the Class III games in Oklahoma casinos by looking for the electronic bingo card on the front of the machine. If it’s there and lights up with results every time you spin the reels, you’re playing a Class II game. If it’s nowhere to be found, you’re playing a Class III slot machine game.

Quirks of Oklahoma Casinos

One interesting quirk about the casino games in Oklahoma is the “ante.” In poker, an ante is a forced bet that drives the action and ensures that players don’t just fold until they have a premium hand.

But in an Oklahoma casino, when you play blackjack, craps, or roulette, you’re required to place an ante in addition to your bet.

It’s not really an ante, though, as you lose the ante regardless of whether you win or lose.

Usually, you’ll see a so-called ante of 50 cents per hand on a blackjack hand of less than $100.

i
Playing table games with an ante means that if you’re betting $5 per hand, the house edge increases by 10% right out of the gate. You’re going to lose 50 cents per hand regardless of what happens during the hand.

I’m not a fan of these kinds of table games, and I suggest avoiding them unless you’re playing for higher stakes. The more money you’re risking, the lower the effect of the ante on the house edge.

50 cents, when compare to $50, only amounts to an additional 1% added to the house edge instead of an additional 10%.

That will make a big difference to your bottom line, although, unless you’re playing games with positive expectation, you’ll eventually lose all your money either way. It’s inevitable because of the math behind the games.

Which Oklahoma Casinos Are Closest to Texas?

It’s probably not a surprise that a lot of the gamblers in Oklahoma have actually traveled from another state to get a little action. And many of those gamblers hail from the Lone Star State.

But which casinos in Oklahoma are closest to Texas?

The Winstar Casino in Thackerville is probably the casino closest to Texas. It’s only 80 miles north of Dallas, and, if you’re driving north on I-35, it’s located at the first exit in Oklahoma.

Choctaw Casino in Durant

The Choctaw Casino in Durant is also close to Texas. It’s only 95 miles northeast of Dallas. If you’re living on the eastern side of Dallas or in one of the suburbs there, it’s closer than the Winstar.

You would get to Choctaw Casino by driving north on 75 instead of taking I-35. It’s not as big as the Winstar, but it’s a major destination casino with all the amenities you’d associated with a larger casino resort.

Of course, those aren’t the only casinos in those destinations. Border Casino in Thackerville is a smaller, slot-machine-only casino also located in Thackerville. I have friends who claim the slots there are a lot looser, but it lacks any amenities beyond the gambling.

How Did Casinos Become Legal in Oklahoma?

Casinos in a lot of states are owned by Native American tribes. They’re recognized as independent nations, but not entirely independent. They operate within existing United States law with treaties called compacts.

In many states, these compacts include the tribes’ rights to operate casinos within their jurisdictions.

Native American tribes’ rights to operate their own casinos wasn’t always the case, but it became so with the passage of the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act of 1988 (IGRA). Indian gaming exploded during the 1990s, but not in Oklahoma. It still wasn’t legal there. (Bingo was a notable exception.)

Oklahoma tribes lobbied for the situation to change for years before States Question 712 passed. Once that happened, it only took 4 years for 94 casinos to launch in the state. I remember when this happened. The Winstar Casino, at the time, was nothing more than a giant circus tent on the other side of the Red River.

What Is the Best Paying Casino in Oklahoma?

In many states, the casinos are required to post details of their financials – especially as those financials relate to the payouts for that casino. This is why you’ll see casino guides publishing information about overall payout percentages and individual casinos’ payout percentages.

Oklahoma, though, doesn’t require the casinos to reveal their financial information related to their payback percentages.

Stack of Poker Chips and Hundred Dollar Bill

So, what is the best paying casino in Oklahoma?

Who knows?

It’s impossible to ascertain, although you could theoretically spend some time at each of them recording your results and drawing conclusions from those results.

With over 100 casinos in the state, you wouldn’t realistically be able to spend much time in each state at their casinos recording results. You’d get some results, but the statistical validity of those results would be questionable at best.

Which Casinos in Oklahoma Offer Poker Games?

Not all of the casinos in Oklahoma offer poker games. In fact, most of them don’t. Here’s a list of those that do offer poker rooms:

  • Apache Casino
  • Cherokee
  • Choctaw (Durant)
  • Choctaw (Grant)
  • Choctaw (Pocola)
  • Downstream
  • Firelake
  • Grand Casino Resort
  • Hard Rock
  • River Spirit
  • Riverwind
  • Winstar

Still, that’s a dozen casinos to choose from if you want to get your poker on.

I’ve played live poker at the Choctaw in Durant and at the Winstar in Thackerville. Both offer huge, clean poker rooms with plenty of action for the most popular poker variants – especially real money Texas holdem. I even found occasional Omaha games to play.

Conclusion

How many casinos are in Oklahoma?

With 102 casinos, Oklahoma has more casinos than any other gambling state in the USA. Only Nevada has more casinos.

But the gambling scene in Oklahoma is a little different from the gambling scenes in other states, so be sure to give it consideration the next time you’re planning a casino trip.