BARTLESVILLE, Okla. – On a cool fall morning, nearly 100 people gathered in front of the newest Osage Casino Hotel property to celebrate its grand opening as the latest entertainment venue for the Osage Nation, its visitors, guests and nearby Washington County communities to the east.
Officials from the Nation’s Gaming Enterprise, tribal government, local and state government entities gathered for a celebratory ribbon cutting on Nov. 16 under the porte-cochere following ceremonial remarks in front of community members who also gathered and waited to be the first customers and guests to enter the Bartlesville casino and hotel property. Located along U.S 60 two miles west of downtown Bartlesville, the Nation’s newest casino and hotel property is the last of two expanded casino properties to open this year following the Pawhuska property opening in October.
Built on 125 acres owned by the Nation, the casino is a 153,151 square-foot venue with about 135 employees, 521 electronic machines, 6,210 square feet of versatile banquet and special event space available for rental, a pizza/ sandwich eatery, a restaurant/ bar named “Scissortail” and a 102-guest room hotel. Amenities in the hotel include a fitness center and outdoor area with a pool and hot tub that will be open year-round.
Osage Casinos CEO Kimberly Pearson welcomed the guests in opening remarks, stating “I am proud to open the doors today of our new state-of-the-art development here in the Bartlesville community. This has been a project that has been in the making for more years than most of you probably realize.”
Amid years of casino expansion brainstorming, planning, land purchase processes, as well as the land-into-trust application processes, Osage Casinos broke ground on the Bartlesville and Pawhuska properties back-to-back in June 2021. However, both projects were delayed more than a year due to construction material supply chain issues caused by the global COVID-19 pandemic.
Pearson, whose former Osage Casinos stints include Executive Director and Chief Operations Officer, recalled “this is the first property I was tasked with acquiring for the Nation to build the new Bartlesville casino and we looked and looked and I’m just so happy to be here today. The road up on the corner (to access U.S. 60) was the only road into this property when we first looked at it and I laugh thinking about it because I was in a truck and we were bouncing and I was like ‘yes, I think this is great, I think we will take it!’”
In her remarks, Pearson thanked those involved with the planning, decision-making and construction to build the new casinos including Crossland Construction, Cardinal Building Solutions, Marnell Architecture and HFS. “I would also like to thank our elected officials for your partnership and support of our Osage Casino (ON Congress, Executive Branch), Gaming Enterprise Board, Gaming Commission.”
Pearson also thanked and acknowledged the City of Bartlesville leadership, its Chamber of Commerce and business community, adding “this, like all of our projects within Osage County, we work diligently in partnership with our communities that we’re in and we had lots of meeting with the City of Bartlesville and this was a great project.”
As a result of the City of Bartlesville partnership, Pearson noted there was an expanded utility infrastructure with a new water and sewer system to serve the casino property and the Nation shared the improvement costs of up to $4 million.
“Through the revenues generated from this gaming complex, we can help fund healthcare, education and cultural initiatives in our community within the Osage Nation that otherwise would not be possible,” Pearson said.
The Bartlesville casino opening took place during the week of the 2023 National Congress of American Indians conference in New Orleans where several Osage government officials were in attendance including Principal Chief Geoffrey Standing Bear, Congressional Speaker Alice Goodfox and Second Congressional Speaker Pam Shaw. Pearson invited Assistant Principal Chief RJ Walker and Congresswoman Jodie Revard to speak on behalf of their respective branches.
Walker said, “it’s been a monumental effort to get this (casino) open shortly after the Pawhuska casino opening, the Osage Nation has a great relationship with our close neighbors in the Bartlesville community and we’re dedicated to building up on that for the greater good of all.”
The new Bartlesville casino property opening also meant closing time for the former location on Nov. 8 – know by locals as “the casino up on the hill” – that was built on land owned by the Allen family accessible by two narrow county roads southwest of Bartlesville city limits. The original casino – also known under the former Osage Million Dollar Elm Casino name – opened in 2006 and was built by Bartlesville-based Ambler Architects in a pre-engineered metal building, according to the company website.
Walker, a former ON Roads Department director, recalled he was tasked with building roads to the former casino at the time, which “wasn’t easy, the roads were not in great shape, I remember one of our consultants telling me ‘RJ, if you just work on those roads, I’m telling you, if we can just get a trail to that casino, people will go and that really has been somewhat the case… The Bartlesville entertainment and tourism industry is top-notch and we are thrilled to be adding this beautiful facility to the mix while also improving employment opportunities that are so greatly needed throughout the Osage Nation Reservation.”
Revard acknowledged Bartlesville casino General Manager John Shaw, who will oversee the new property operations as well, as well as other long-time casino employees attending that morning. “I just want to say to all of you Osages that are here that have been a part of it since Day One – It’s been a blessing to be part of this growth and to see the Osage Nation jump into gaming alongside the other tribes in the state of Oklahoma to become the leaders in Indian gaming with seven facilities. I’m so proud of that as you guys should be as well,” she said.
Shaw, who has served as Bartlesville casino GM since 2016, also applauded the day’s celebration and said “I know the potential of my employees and the things that they can do as far as how they serve the guests and people that come in… It’s been a long (construction process) to get to this point where we can actually serve the people and do good things for our Osage Nation.”
As for the now-former Bartlesville casino building, Pearson said the structure will go to the Allen family once it’s vacated in accordance with the lease between the Gaming Enterprise and the family.
For future gaming expansion plans, Pearson said work continues on the land-into-trust application efforts for land purchased in Missouri near Lake of the Ozarks for a possible casino and hotel property. In Oklahoma during the next year, Pearson said “we are going to be doing some smaller renovations to Sand Springs and Ponca City (Osage Casino locations).”
Republican Oklahoma state Rep. Ken Luttrell, a Cherokee Nation citizen whose district includes Ponca City, spoke at the event on behalf of the other attending state government officials. “One of the things I wanted to mention is your facilities – from Ponca City to Pawhuska and now to this one – are something that’s very special to me and to this district, especially because you’re a shining example of the partnerships that can exist between city, state and county governments and state government and tribal entities. That cooperation and communication is so essential in the times that we face now… Working together can bring successful projects to fruition,” Luttrell said.
Newly elected Gaming Enterprise Board Chairwoman Claudette Carnett noted the Nation’s growth and accomplishments in gaming noting “we really started out in (the former) Wakon Iron (Hall in Pawhuska Village) in 2000 and I think we had 32 games and if you think about it, this is from 2000 until now, what has been accomplished has taken so many people and it’s a community effort… I would like to say a little about the board, our primary function is to provide opportunities and support to the Nation and provide a little bit of vision and guidance and it’s our honor. The other two board members are here – Bruce Pollock and Geoff Hager – thank you guys for always being there. I’m confident this facility will help us achieve our goals for the Nation.”
The new Bartlesville Osage Casino Hotel’s address is 1803 W. U.S. Highway 60 and for more information on the Osage Casino properties, job opportunities, amenities, upcoming entertainment events and to book hotel room reservations, visit the casino website at www.osagecasino.com