Choctaw Casino Hotel could be adding close to 350 jobs to its Pocola, Okla., location once phase two of its $60 million expansion is complete.

When the planned positions are filled, the gaming and hospitality center will support close to 850 jobs in the area.

“This expansion has made Choctaw Casino Pocola a first-class entertainment destination with diverse gaming, new dining options and a brand new exterior and casino floor,” Gregory Pyle, Chief of the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma, said in a statement. “We’re proud to finally open the doors to this beautiful new casino floor, and we know this multi-million dollar project will benefit our guests, as well as the southeast Oklahoma and the (Fort Smith) River Valley region.”

The property is just across the Arkansas-Oklahoma state line and less than a mile from Fort Smith city limits.

The $60 million price tag includes staffing, construction, equipment and other professional services, according to Anna Lindsey, public relations specialist at MOSAK, the firm handling PR for Choctaw.

The two phases of the project, slated for completion in the spring of 2013, will include more than 148,000 square feet of casino and hotel space comprised of a 118-room hotel with 10 suites and two luxury suites, additional dining options with Gilley’s and Trophy’s Bar and Grill, a 600-space parking garage and expanded event and meeting spaces.

“The hotel will consist of seven floors at 11,400 square feet each for a total of 79,800,” said Lindsey. “The rest of it is all casino, restaurant, bar, players club, gift shop, things like that.”

Most of the jobs (around 300) will be added when the hotel opens, according to Arlene Alleman, corporate director of marketing at Choctaw.

“We'll have to get more staff because we are now doing cocktail service at your machine. So before you could go get a soda on your own. Now it's being brought to you when you're playing,” Alleman said.

When asked for a pay scale of the jobs, Alleman said, “That's not something that we would release, but the majority of the jobs are tipped positions. If you want to get good tips, you're going to work a Friday and Saturday night as opposed to a Monday morning.”

Phase one, a 62,400-square foot casino expansion that will celebrate its grand opening on Saturday (Dec. 1), required an additional 52 employees.

Choctaw Casino Pocola opened in September 1994. The facility was expanded to 87,600 square feet in January 2005. This existing facility will be renovated starting in December and along with the hotel should finish “sometime in May (2013),” Lindsey said.

The expanded gaming area includes slot machine additions (bringing the facility’s total to 2,200), a high-limit gaming space and a 12-table pit featuring a live craps table in addition to existing blackjack, roulette and three-card poker tables.

Other additions include a three-meal restaurant with a casual dining experience for breakfast and lunch and a specialty dining “steakhouse” environment with a chef-driven menu at dinner, according to a company news release.

The construction project was designed by Denver-based Worth Group Architects and is being built by Manhattan Construction out of Tulsa.

Choctaw Casino Hotel Pocola is one of eight gaming destinations owned by the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma. Other locations include Broken Bow, Durant, Grant, Idabel, McAlester, Stigler and Stringtown.

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Aric Mitchell