Where can you see live buffalo and longhorn cattle up close, play a round of golf, swim in a resort-style pool, get a massage, enjoy a five-course wine pairing dinner, and hear live music and comedy?
Casinos in Kansas and Oklahoma.
While all of those attractions are not offered at a single location, they are available across the region’s casinos. Along with thousands of slot machines and hundreds of table games, non-gaming entertainment and amenities keep visitors at casinos longer and appease the non-gambling members in a couple or group of friends.
“Most people who come to Dodge City come to the casino, but as a historic Western town we have a lot more to see and do,” said Kari Casterline of the Boot Hill Casino & Resort. “We can be a day trip, but we also get couples and girlfriend weekend getaways from Wichita. We even have people who drive up from Amarillo just to get one of our steaks for dinner.”
Kansas has only eight casinos. It’s a different story in Oklahoma, which has more than 100 casinos, including more tribal casinos than any other state.
“At our First Council casino in Newkirk, I compete with five other casinos right in my backyard,” said Mike Beezley, player development manager for 7 Clans Casinos. “We have to have the best customer service, offer better gaming – meaning looser slots – and give them more entertainment.”
Beezley said 64 percent of his market comes from Kansas, so he also competes with casinos here, especially the Kansas Star Casino in Mulvane, which is closest to his largest market in Wichita.
“We want the mindset to be ‘why drive 15 minutes and lose when you can drive 60 minutes and win,’” he said.
7 Clans Casinos’ five properties are among the closest in Oklahoma for Wichitans. Others in the area of Interstate 35 and Highway 77 south of the Kansas border include Osage, Kaw Nation SouthWind and Tonkawa Tribe operations. The casinos in north central Oklahoma vary in size and amenities but are close together, making it easy to visit many on one trip. For the largest in Oklahoma – and the world, in terms of number of games – you’ll have to drive to WinStar World Casino and Resort in Thackerville, Okla., on I-35 about 280 miles south of Wichita and 75 miles north of Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport.
Here’s what you’ll find at casinos in the region.
With more games than any other casino in the world, WinStar World Casino and Resort in Oklahoma offers more than 7,400 electronic games, 98 table games and 46 poker tables. The largest casino in Kansas is Hollywood Casino at Kansas Speedway in Kansas City, with 100,000 square feet of gaming including 2,000 slot machines, 40 table games and 12 poker tables, followed closely by Kansas Star Casino, just south of Wichita in Mulvane.
There are gaming differences between Kansas and Oklahoma as well as tribal versus commercial operations. Oklahoma casinos cannot offer roulette or dice-based craps.
“The most popular game and best game for the gambler is a VGT game, and only tribal casinos have those,” 7 Clans’ Beezley said. VGT is a brand of slot machine, Video Gaming Technologies.
“They have free spins that are built into their game pattern,” he said. “Everyone loves free spins.”
A buffet is usually a sure bet at a casino. WinStar has 17 restaurants, including fast food, casual dining and fine dining. Among the options are Toby Keith’s I Love This Bar and Grill and El Fenix, a popular Tex-Mex chain from Texas. 7 Clans Casino Hotel First Council recently added a Sunday brunch at its FlatWater Bar & Grill.
Kansas Star’s Woodfire Grille is considered by many Wichitans to be worth the drive for dinner alone. From lobster bisque to a wide selection of steaks, including a 28-ounce bone-in ribeye, the menu changes seasonally. The restaurant hosts occasional reservation-only pairing dinners, like a May 17 dinner with five courses and five Spanish wine pairings for $55 per person.
Firesides at Boot Hill offers Kansas steak dinners for $14.99 every night starting at 5 p.m. Steak Your Claim lets diners choose one of five steaks served with a baked potato, soup and salad bar and soda or tea. The restaurant also has buffets, including all-you-can-eat lobster for $15.99 from 11 a.m.-2 p.m. Sundays.
Kansas’ Boot Hill, Kansas Star and Prairie Band all have hotels either adjoining or next door. Hollywood Casino is near several hotels in the Village West development. Casino White Cloud, a 21,000-square-foot casino on the Iowa Tribe Reservation in the far northeast corner of Kansas, has four cabins.
Oklahoma’s 7 Clans Casino Hotel First Council has 86 rooms and suites, and the WinStar World Casino Hotel has 1,400 rooms. WinStar has two outdoor pools available to hotel guests only: a family-friendly pool and a resort pool where guests can rent cabanas and attend 21-and-over Weekends After Dark parties every weekend from May 6-Sept. 4.
Check websites for stay-and-play packages. Several properties also have RV parks.
Concerts and shows
Shows and concerts at area casinos range from free lounge bands to ticketed headliners. Some venues allow all ages, others are 21 and over. Check websites regularly for events. As of press time here are some highlights on the summer schedules.
Kansas Star in Mulvane regularly has bands playing in its atrium and also has ticketed events in its 6,500-seat Kansas Star Arena and its Kansas Star Events Center. Legends in Concert, one of the longest-running shows in Las Vegas, is scheduled in the events center June 9-11.
Boot Hill in Dodge City has a free summer concert series Fridays at 8 p.m. from May 27-July 22 with acoustic performances by local and regional bands in the casino courtyard. They also have a comedy show featuring the Easily Unamused Roadshow on June 10. The casino also sponsors events next door at the 5,500-seat United Wireless Arena, including the Beach Boys (May 18) and Styx (Aug. 25). The casino participates in the 10-day annual Dodge City Days festival by sponsoring the Boot Hill Casino Longhorn Cattle Drive, scheduled for Aug. 6, featuring 100 longhorn steers being paraded down the Wyatt Earp Boulevard.
Prairie Band Casino and Resort, 15 minutes north of Topeka, has a full schedule of concerts in its 1,100-seat Great Lakes Ballroom including Buddy Guy (May 20), America (June 25), The Monkees 50th Anniversary Tour (July 1) and John Michael Montgomery (July 14).
Sac and Fox Casino, 48 miles north of Topeka on Highway 75, offers free concerts monthly in its Silver Fox Showroom. This summer is a series of tribute bands: Frankie Valli (May 21), Bee Gees (June 25), Elvis (July 23) and Beatles (Aug. 27).
The SouthWind Casino in Braman, Okla., just south of the Kansas state line on I-35, has two free outdoor summer concerts planned: Kansas on May 20 and Nitty Gritty Dirt Band on June 18.
7 Clans has several event centers, including 350 seats at 7 Clans Paradise Casino in Red Rock, which is hosting Johnny Lee (May 21), and an 1,100-seat arena at 7 Clans Casino Hotel First Council. Billy Currington (June 18) is performing outdoors at First Council while Ratt & Warrant (July 30) and Chicago (Aug. 5) will be inside the arena.
In addition to live music each weekend in the casino’s lounges, WinStar has a busy summer at its 3,500-seat Global Event Center, from the music of Daughtry (June 4), Leon Bridges (July 1) and Tears for Fears (July 9) to comedians Sarah Silverman (July 2), Jeff Dunham (July 8), Rodney Carrington (July 15-16) and Gabriel Iglesias (July 23). WinStar also hosts the Professional Bull Riders Built Ford Tough Series Sept. 3-4 at its outdoor stadium.
Just south of the Boot Hill Casino & Resort in Dodge City is the free Wild West Heritage Foundation Buffalo & Longhorn Exhibit with four live buffalo and two longhorn.
Hollywood Casino is within walking distance to shopping at Kansas City’s Legends Outlets at Village West, as well as dining and entertainment.
Across the street from the Prairie Band Casino and Resort are the casino’s Firekeeper Golf Course and Firekeeper Golf Academy. The 18-hole course opened in 2011 and plays from 4,500 to 7,500 yards, with the first seven holes in the prairie and the final 11 holes tucked along creeks, trees and rolling hills. The course made Golfweek’s list of 100 best resort courses the past three years.
Oklahoma’s WinStar has a golf academy and is expanding its course to 36 holes.
“We’re closer to home for most of our guests,” said Stephanie Callaway, WinStar’s entertainment manager, “and easier to get to than a flight to Vegas.”