Chickasaw Nation gets early foothold in Oklahoma online gaming with betting app debut

Southern Oklahoma’s Chickasaw Nation has launched a mobile gaming app exclusively for the Winstar World Casino and Resort in Thackerville, the tribe’s largest gaming hub near the Oklahoma-Texas line. The app will take and pay out real money, a change from phone games where no cash changes hands. The betting app’s release comes despite most forms of online wagering not yet being legal in Oklahoma. 

The introduction of the app to the state could see the expansion further down the line to the tribe’s other casinos or across its reservation, which stretches from the Red River to the outskirts of Norman. The Chickasaw Nation’s gaming operation is one of the largest in the state with over a dozen casinos, and this launch could give the tribe an early foothold in the fast-growing mobile gaming world.

Last October, federal regulators gave a go-ahead to the Chickasaw Nation to offer mobile gaming on its Oklahoma reservation. The approval applies specifically to mobile games that are bingo at their core, which is an important distinction as federal law allows tribes to operate such games without sign-on from state governments, state approval, or oversight. 

In bingo games, players play against a pool of other players. Vegas-style machines, which are covered by the state-tribal gaming agreement, use random numbers. Most casinos in Oklahoma have both types of games.

Meanwhile, state regulators have also given similar approvals to the Muscogee and Choctaw nations in eastern Oklahoma. The Eastern Shawnee Tribe near Wyandotte and the Wichita and Affiliated Tribes in Anadarko also have said they are considering mobile gaming.

The Winstar app will offer three of its popular electronic games, which can be accessed on people’s mobile devices rather than a machine on the casino floor.

To launch the app, the tribe partnered with Aristocrat, an Australian firm that makes slot machines and is expanding into mobile gaming. Bill Lance, the Chickasaw Nation’s secretary of state, recently joined Aristocrat’s board of directors. 

As per Scott Emerson, under secretary for operations at the Chickasaw Nation’s Department of Commerce, the app is currently available to a small group of people who were invited to join. It is said to be released and advertised more widely throughout Winstar within the next month, reports The Oklahoman.

The tribe is employing a technology called geofencing that will keep the new app from working outside of Winstar. It will specifically check whether people are on trust land at Winstar, a type of land where tribes can conduct gaming under federal law.

Through the partnership with WinStar World, Anaxi, Aristocrat’s real money gaming division will provide the Chickasaw Nation with its new Mobile on-Premise solution including three of Aristocrat’s Class II titles – Mr. Money Bags, Polar High Roller and Hot Red Ruby.

The publication cited Emerson as saying that mobile betting could eventually expand beyond Winstar. However, the current focus is on creating an app that people like. Success will be measured by how many people play the app more than once, he said.

Mobile betting in Oklahoma is getting embraced slower as compared to the other states. Last month, Governor Kevin Stitt expressed support for mobile sports betting but said he wanted the state to license companies and not tribal nations.

Stitt’s proposal generated controversy because a longstanding agreement gives tribes exclusive gaming rights in exchange for paying the state millions of dollars in monthly fees. Stitt has criticized those payments as too low.