Early last month, the Dallas Morning News ran this story about how WinStar World Casino, the jewel of Thackerville, OK, is proving to be a fearsome contender in the cutthroat world of entertainment booking in North Texas.
From Michael Granberry’s story:
Since its 3,500-seat Global Event Center opened in 2008, WinStar has emerged as a force to be reckoned with in North Texas’ increasingly crowded cultural-entertainment landscape. Just across the state line on Interstate 35, WinStar is about 80 miles north of downtown Dallas. But it’s less than an hour away from such fast-growing suburbs as Lewisville, Frisco and Plano, which is causing venue operators in Dallas and Fort Worth to take note: WinStar is stiff competition, and the lure of legalized gambling is only one reason why.
I read the piece with interest (you should also do so), because I’ve generally made it a point to cast a blind eye to events happening across state lines when writing about upcoming concerts and things to do.
Partly because spending more than two hours in the state of Oklahoma has disastrous implications for anyone’s mental well-being and general sanity. Partly because I don’t think we have a lot readers in Love County, population 9,742. And partly out of spite. (In the spirit of full disclosure, I spent the long hot summer of 2011 working as a valet at WinStar’s hotel, although I was employed by the valet company and not the casino itself. I mostly worked the graveyard shift. It was not fun.)
When I read that article all the way back in 2015, I was prepared to rail against WinStar for taking acts that would otherwise land at well-deserving venues in Dallas. In the first few months of this new year, those acts include comedian Jerry Seinfeld, country hero Chris Stapleton, disco legend Diana Ross, human beings Macklemore and Ryan Lewis, and whoever is still in Lynyrd Skynyrd these days. Factor in the understandable suspicion that WinStar can book these performers — and leave North Texas venues in the cold with alleged exclusivity clauses — because it has other sources of revenue to throw around, and it’s easy to see why some might be displeased.
After stewing on it for a month, I’m a little more conflicted. My ideal live music experience does not involve gambling, three-plus hours getting to and from the venue, or the profoundly depressing sight of chain-smoking octogenarians pressing buttons on slot machines with names like “Lucky Duck.” Maybe yours does, however. Thackerville is a far cry from Las Vegas, but you can’t bet $100 on red right after watching Bob Dylan shamble through a set at the Winspear.
Discounting my own biases, I can understand why someone would want to package a gambling excursion with a Pitbull concert. Plenty of people will drive countless miles to see Kid Rock, drink overpriced Bud Lights, and lose hundreds of dollars playing video roulette at the McMansion of casinos. I have parked their cars. Per the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act, it is their right to gamble and see big-name performers. I can resent WinStar for keeping John Fogerty out of North Texas in 2016, but I can’t hold a grudge against Creedence fans making the trip to Thackerville.
All of this is a long way of asking whether the daily barrage of “things to do in Dallas” posts on this website should include events at WinStar World Casino. Would that be relevant to your interests? Will you, presumably a resident of North Texas, go to shows at said casino? Or should you take some kind of principled position against attending those shows? Should you casually deploy the word boycott?
I mostly know where I stand. Barring a resurrected John Lennon and George Harrison joining Paul and Ringo at WinStar’s Global Event Center, I will never set foot in that venue. To paraphrase Davy Crockett: You may all go to Oklahoma, and I will go to Texas.