ICYMI: Groundbreaking begins for new Eufaula casino

(From Left) MCN Gaming Enterprises COO Andy Langston, CEO Pat Crofts, Principal Chief David Hill, Second Chief Del Beaver, National Council Speaker Randall Hicks, and Lake Eufaula Casino & Hotel GM Derek Fife take part in a groundbreaking ceremony of a new casino in Eufaula, Oklahoma. (Thomas Jackson/MM)

EUFAULA, Oklv. – Key figures from both Muscogee (Creek) Nation and its subsidiary, Muscogee Nation Gaming Enterprises took part in a groundbreaking ceremony in Eufaula to celebrate the construction of a new 78,000 square-foot hotel and casino. The casino, known as the Lake Eufaula Casino and Hotel, will include a 46-room hotel, with three suites, a fitness center, and space to hold 645 vehicles. In addition, it will host a 20,500 square-foot casino with 500 new gaming machines, and a new full-service restaurant known as the Lakeside Bar & Grill, which holds 90 seats and a 25-seat private dining area. It will serve guests, local citizens, and visitors to Lake Eufaula year round. 

Principal Chief David Hill was excited about the prospect of creating jobs and bringing tourism to the Lake Eufaula region, as he elaborated in a statement. “This project is more than just a new business venture. It is a testament to our commitment to growing our economic development capacity, expanding cultural tourism, creating jobs and enhancing the quality of life for our citizens.” Chief Hill said in a statement to attendees. 

His words were echoed by Second Chief Del Beaver. “The Lake Eufaula Casino and Hotel represents progress and innovation as we continue to expand and invest in the communities located within the Muscogee Nation. This new development provides a state-of-the-art space where we can share our Muscogee Nation heritage with visitors while also generating a positive economic impact for the greater Eufaula region.” Second Chief Beaver said in a press release.

“This particular facility is going to be a focal point for not only locals, but for visitors to the Eufaula area, and people coming through… It’s going to be a very, very nice hotel… The construction company has already started working. We’re on a schedule, and we’re going to keep moving on it.” CEO of Muscogee Nation Gaming Enterprises Pat Crofts added in a statement during the groundbreaking ceremony.

The project’s construction is done in partnership with Connect Advisors, Crossland Construction Company Inc, and JCJ Architecture. The current Muscogee (Creek) Nation casino in Eufaula, located to the south of the construction site, will promptly close when the new one opens. In addition, 50 new full-time jobs will be added to the new casino once it opens, providing new jobs to the Lake Eufaula region. 

Construction of the new casino begins in June of 2024 and is estimated to last until November 2025.

Remember the Removal cyclists finish their memorial journey, arrive home in Oklahoma

2024 Remember the Removal Bike Ride cyclists return to Tahlequah. Cherokee Nation/Cherokee Nation

Cherokee Nation citizens welcomed home the 2024 Remember the Removal cyclists in Tahlequah on Friday, June 21.

By Katie Hallum

The 17 cyclists, 10 Cherokee Nation citizens and seven Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians started in New Echota, Georgia, and biked the 950-mile trail their ancestors were forced to walk through seven states.

This was the 40th time Cherokee bicyclists have made the trip.

Over the course of three weeks, the group pedaled over trails and visited historic monuments marking where over 16,000 Cherokee citizens and other tribal peoples camped and died 185 years ago.

“These cyclists are a testament to the strength and endurance of the Cherokee people,” Cherokee Nation Chief Chuck Hoskin said at the homecoming ceremony. “They have no doubt formed a bond as they learned about their proud past, glimpsed their ancestors’ darkest days, and discovered their own strengths.”

Grand Theater inside Choctaw Casino & Resort – Durant wins “Casino of the Year – Theater” from the Academy of Country Music Awards

Third ACM Award for the Grand Theater

DURANT, Okla. - The Grand Theater inside Choctaw Casino & Resort – Durant won the Academy of Country Music’s “Casino of the Year – Theater” award. This is the third time the Grand Theater has taken home this award.

The award was announced on Monday morning, and representatives from Choctaw Casino & Resort – Durant will travel to Nashville to accept the award at the 17th annual Academy of Country Music Honors on August 21.

Established in 1966, the Academy of Country Music Awards is the longest-running Country Music awards show and made history in 2022 as the first major awards ceremony to exclusively livestream, in partnership with Prime Video.

“It’s an honor to win ‘ACM Casino of the Year – Theater,’” said Jeff Penz, senior director of casino operations at Choctaw Casinos & Resorts – Durant. “The Grand Theater is a premier tour stop for the top country music entertainers in the industry, offering an intimate venue for artists to connect with the audience. Every year, we strive to elevate that experience and we’re thrilled the Academy of Country Music Awards has recognized the Grand Theater for this award for the third time.”

The Grand Theater is a 3,000-seat venue that draws crowds from across Oklahoma and Texas for top-notch performances from big names and exciting up-and-comers. Exciting acts scheduled for 2024 include: Two-time ACM award winner Kelsea Ballerini, ACM award winner Brett Young and two-time ACM award winner Sam Hunt.

Also nominated for “Casino of the Year – Theater" were:

Deadwood Mountain Grand –Deadwood, SD
Foxwoods Resort Casino –Mashantucket, CT
Lucas Oil Live at WinStar World Casino and Resort –Thackerville, OK
Resorts World Theatre at Resorts World Las Vegas –Las Vegas, NV
 About Choctaw Casino & Resort in Durant, Okla.

Located an hour north of the Dallas/Fort Worth Metroplex, Choctaw Casino & Resort – Durant is a AAA Four Diamond casino resort, entertainment and convention destination in southeastern Oklahoma. The casino has more than 7,400 slot machines, table games, a poker room, and a large non-smoking casino.  The resort offers more than 100,000 square feet of meeting and convention space and seats more than 3,000 at the Academy of Country Music (ACM) award-winning Grand Theater. The resort also includes more than 1,600 luxurious rooms and suites, 20 restaurants, 21 bars and lounges, six retail stores, two fitness centers, a spa, and two outdoor pools and a water park. The family-friendly District offers guests 20 bowling lanes, a 6-screen premier movie theater, 70 arcade games and dining options. Additionally, guests can enjoy the Choctaw RV Park located across from the casino. For more information, visit choctawcasinos.com.

Chickasaw Business Network helps First American entrepreneurs succeed

Prospective First American entrepreneurs have a friend in the Chickasaw Business Network that can guide them through the myriad pitfalls associated with opening their first business.

Sandra Wesson, Chickasaw Business Network manager, says it often happens that someone may have a good idea for a new business venture, but lacks the know-how and resources to do so.

“A lot of times small businesspeople will bootstrap it and wing it, and when you do that you don’t really have a plan in place. You’re constantly finding yourself course correcting,” Wesson said.

“We get a lot of people who are starting new businesses who reach out because they have no idea what the process is and what avenues they need to take. We guide them through writing business plans and determining if it is a feasible idea they have in mind,” she said.

Wesson said helping newbies determine projections and budget details just scratches the surface of what is required to be successful. To that end, the Chickasaw Business Network offers an abundance of training.

Topics include accounting, human resources, classic design, marketing, and assistance in learning to access and use the different tools and resources available to turn their fledgling business venture into a successful enterprise.

Wesson says part of the process is discovering a client’s niche in the marketplace by determining what makes their business unique.

“We help them explore what makes their business different. Sometimes it’s in performing research, finding out who their competitors are, what they offer and how to set yourself apart from them. It’s all part of branding,” she said.

She said self-motivation when starting and operating a business is a key ingredient for success.

“What is driving you to do this? We really try to help them explore that question. You don’t have to (have a college degree) to start a business, but you do have to be motivated and able to continue that drive to overcome whatever obstacles are thrown at you. You do face challenges, and you must be persistent and keep moving forward.”

Wesson said other features Chickasaw Business Network provides include a green room for business owners who want to produce podcasts or photo headshots, or who need to photograph products with professional camera equipment.

A computer lab with professional software assists clients in planning and executing their social media campaigns. She said tools are available to create and edit capability statements, flyers or other pertinent information such as marketing materials or proposal quotes.

“We are ordering in a 3D printer to use if someone wants to model a particular design to send into production or to manufacture. We are also getting product labelers.”

Wesson says these are expensive items a small business is not able to afford but is available at no charge, not just to Chickasaws, but to all First Americans.

“Dave Dicky is a small business consultant on staff who helps support that initial startup,” Wesson said. “Morgan Merrell is our office manager who helps us navigate all the trainings and events we offer.”

Taylor MacCollister, whose Buzzkill Pest Control launched in December last year, says Chickasaw Business Network gave her company a great deal of assistance.

“Sandra Wesson, David Dickey and Morgan Merrell were all great,” MacCollister said. “They were a lot of help for what we needed and gave us great support. They helped us fill out the preferred vendor application, helped us make flyers and let us use their computers.”

Allison Poe of Poe Prepping LLC describes her company as a food trucking, meal prepping, catering company that started in November 2019.

“I love them,” Poe said. “Sandra, David and Morgan are so helpful. They always have good ideas to bounce off of me and me off of them. They helped me print (materials) and get in contact with people who made them even prettier than the plain things I had. They spiced it up.

They are always willing to help anybody who needs it no matter how big or small,” she said.

Another feature offered to select Chickasaw Business Network clients is Apelachi, a business incubator for companies less than two years old and that are approved by a panel of judges.

“Apelachi is a little more hands-on than just our small business consulting,” Wesson said. “We monitor these companies a little closer and offer to work with them here in our facility.”

While funding is not directly a part of the services provided, Wesson says her division works with Chickasaw Community Bank, REI, a nonprofit agency in Oklahoma that does lend money for such ventures.

“We try to connect the resources that can help regardless of the type of business they are in,” she said.

For easy reference, Chickasaw Business Network produces a business directory of Chickasaw-owned businesses and a preferred vendor program for vendors who want to do business with the Chickasaw Nation.

For more information about Chickasaw Business Network, visit ChickasawBusinessNetwork@Chickasaw.net or call (580) 559-0805.