KISS members put their image, history behind Oklahoma casino project
Two years after a star-studded casino announcement in Oklahoma, precious little dirt has actually moved on the project.
But that doesn’t mean the project is dead.
In January 2017, KISS co-founders Paul Stanley and Gene Simmons announced their intention to build the Rock & Brews Casino Resort in Braman, Okla., just south of the northern Oklahoma border and less than an hour’s drive from Wichita.
It was to be a 77,528-square-foot casino complete with a luxurious hotel, event center, retail shops and restaurants.
At the time, the partners in the project indicated it would be open by 2019.
That’s highly unlikely now, but Pam Shaw, CEO of Kaw Gaming, said Monday “we are still absolutely working on it very diligently.”
“It’s a big project, so certainly sometimes these things take a good amount of time,” Shaw said. “The best-possible-case scenario would be maybe in December (2019), but it’s very likely going to be in 2020.”
Shaw did not specify what exactly had caused the project’s delay — “nothing that I’m really at liberty to state,” she said.
“There’s nothing that would be considered a problem — it’s just that sometimes when you have different leadership in place, sometimes you have different ideas,” she said. “It’s just a matter of getting the architect and everyone in line and moving in the same direction.”
A few members of the casino’s organizing team have changed since 2017.
Jacque Secondine Hensley, who was chairwoman of the Kaw Nation at the time of the casino announcement, resigned her position last year, after which Lynn Dunson was elected new chairwoman in September.
Also new to the project since the 2017 announcement: Cherokee Nation Hospitality Consulting.
Cherokee Nation is responsible for multiple casinos in Oklahoma, including the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Tulsa, which was billed as Oklahoma’s first resort gaming destination.
“They’re helping us with the development, acting as the developer on the project,” Shaw said. “They have many, many properties of many different sizes and are experienced in the branding portion because of their casino in Tulsa. They have resources and experience that will be useful to us, of course, as we’re working on this.”
Shaw said the casino is “still very much in the developmental phase,” adding that the project team is still “getting architectural drawings in place.”
Once completed, the casino is expected to provide jobs to about 450 people in and around Braman — a boon for the Kaw Nation, a small tribe of about 3,500 people.
The casino will be tied to the Rock & Brews concept, a nationwide chain of restaurants that KISS members Simmons and Stanley are partners in.
Overland Park is home to Kansas’ only Rock & Brews restaurant.
Oklahoma City’s Rock & Brews restaurant closed in August 2018. In a statement given to local television, chain management referred to the OKC restaurant as an “opening act” for the yet-to-be-built casino.
“(We) are now focused on creating an exciting, new destination experience for you. We look forward to seeing you in Braman,” that statement read.
When it opens, the Rock & Brews casino is expected to compete directly with the Kansas Star Casino — Braman, Okla., is 55 miles south of Wichita, or about a 40-minute drive farther south from Mulvane, where the Star is located.
Wichita is the closest major metropolitan area to the Rock & Brews casino, which expects to pull gamblers from Kansas, Tulsa and Oklahoma City combined.