By Steve Beauregard
When we think of huge casinos, our minds turn to Las Vegas: The Bellagio, MGM Grand, The Venetian, Wynn, and Caesars Palace. Or maybe we think of the massive Foxwoods in Connecticut, or the resorts in Atlantic City.
Yet with all of these billion dollar mega-resorts, it may surprise you to learn the largest casino in the U.S. is located in a dusty town of just 445 residents in rural Oklahoma.
The biggest casino in the US is the WinStar World Casino & Resort in tiny Thackerville, Oklahoma.
Being in a remote area and sort of off the radar, the WinStar has snuck up on the folks who cover the United States gambling market, and who direct their focus on Vegas, Atlantic City, and the growing Pennsylvania casino market.
And in fact, the rise of WinStar has been swift. In 2004, it opened as nothing more than a bingo hall under a fabric tent. Today, its gaming space is over three times larger than that of the MGM Grand in Las Vegas.
Between hotels, restaurants, and the like, the resort has 1.2 million square feet of space. The WinStar’s buffet alone has seating for over 500 people.
However in terms of strictly gaming space, it has 400,000 square feet of casino floor space, making it the largest casino in the United States by far. The second largest is Foxwoods Resort Casino in southeast Connecticut, which has 344,000 square feet of casino space.
Biggest Casino in the United States: WinStar or Foxwoods?
We should note here that Foxwoods Resort Casino bills itself as “The largest resort casino in North America.”
The inclusion of the word “resort” makes this brag technically true, due to the massive size of the hotel and casino’s non-gaming space. Foxwoods has 2,200 hotel room whereas the WinStar has 1,400. Foxwoods also has over twice as many restaurants.
Including hotels, clubs, convention space, recreation amenities, spas, restaurants, retail shopping areas, etc., the gigantic Foxwoods complex has over nine million square feet of indoor space, dwarfing the total size of WinStar.
However Foxwoods Resort’s six connected casinos have a combined casino-only square footage of 344,000. This makes it huge of course, but still only the second largest casino in the United States.
WinStar also beats out Foxwoods in terms of gaming machines, defined as slot machines, video poker machines, electronic blackjack games, etc.
Foxwoods has “just” 4,800 slot machines, whereas WinStar has an incredible 8,100 different slot machines.
Foxwoods does have more than double the number of table games WinStar has however, with 250 table games, such as blackjack, Let-It-Ride, etc.
How Did WinStar Become the Country’s Biggest Casino?
An unlikely location for the king of the USA’s gambling market, the casino is located in an isolated area two miles north of the Red River, which is also the border between Oklahoma and Texas.
But in a nation of over 300 million people, why is a place like tiny Thackerville home to the USA’s biggest casino?
The main (and really only) reason that a remote casino in the heartland is the nation’s largest is because it nearly has a regional gambling monopoly.
The WinStar is just 80 miles from the center of Dallas, Texas. And the U.S. Census Bureau recently estimated the Dallas/Ft. Worth metroplex to have a population of just under 7 million people (6.95 million to be more specific).
The WinStar has the geographical fortune to be one of only two casinos within 100 miles of this growing metropolitan area. (The other is the Choctaw Casino Resort in Durant, Oklahoma, about 91 miles away).
Unlike almost every other casino in the United States, the WinStar faces zero neighboring competition, other than the aforementioned Choctaw Casino, 60 miles to the east. There are no other casinos across the street from the WinStar, nor down the road to compete for Dallas area gambling dollars.
What I’m trying to say is that when you’re the only casino within an hour and a half’s drive for 7 million people, you’re going to do well.
In fact, the vast majority of WinStar’s 3.5 million plus annual visitors drive up from the Dallas/Ft. Worth area. Industry estimates state that 90% of WinStar’s customer base originates from the Dallas/North Texas area.
So although Foxwoods gets points for sheer overall size, and the Las Vegas Strip casinos get style points for pizazz, the WinStar World Resort and Casino gets bragging rights as the largest casino in the United States.
(Photos courtesy of the WinStar)