Winstar Hotel Grand Opening: Keeping Small Town Oklahoma Alive - KTEN.com - No One Gets You Closer

Winstar Hotel Grand Opening: Keeping Small Town Oklahoma Alive

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THACKERVILLE, OK---Today the Winstar Casino celebrated the grand opening of its new hotel. You can't miss the tower and sprawling facility as you drive by on Interstate 35, but if you blink, you might miss the town it's in--tiny Thackerville, Oklahoma. Michelle Gillespie reports.

It's a tiny Oklahoma town of 400 people, with one gas station, and one local hangout, and now it stands in the shadow of the fifth largest casino in the world.

"It's what keeps Thackerville alive," says one Thackerville resident, who wishes to remain nameless because he works for the casino.

"The hotel and casino employ 2,700 people, which is a lot of people in South Oklahoma," says Kim Koch, the spokeswoman for Winstar.

2,700 employees---that's nearly six times the size of the small town it calls home!

"The economic impact of that combined with other vendors that thrive because of this facility--is immeasurable for Love County and South Central Oklahoma," says Koch.

And with Gainesville nearly seven miles to the south and Ardmore, 35 miles to the north, Thackerville residents are thankful for the big business close to home.

"They don't have to bring their kids to Gainesville or Ardmore, they can bring kids to school here and that helps Thackerville out," says Carla Faehnrich, a teacher at Thackerville Elementary School.

"Lots of people moved out here from other places--land prices have gone up and wages went up," says one resident.

Some residents say at least 200 people or half of the town commutes the four miles down Interstate 35, every day to report to work.

"A lot more jobs, they hire a lot of people," says Thackerville resident, Harold Wheeler.

Some Thackerville residents say without the casino that opened up back in 2004, they'd worry about their hometown becoming a ghost town.

"It was just a small community, you know, it's helped," says one resident. "It's tripled in size probably."