Riverwind Casino and Hotel have been operating on Norman’s south side for nearly a decade. Their motto is “Simply the Best” and that philosophy extends into all facets of the business. It’s an enterprise owned and managed by the Chickasaw Nation. They have an impeccable reputation for being good corporate citizens and neighbors which includes Riverwind and its various impacts on Norman.
“We are responsible stewards of our patrons,” Riverwind general manager Jack Parkinson said. “And we are encouraged every day to be positive ambassadors to the community. We want to understand the challenges our community has and how we can get them through those, if we can.” His extensive Native American gaming expertise involves management and consulting prior to Riverwind in 19 different states from coast to coast.
“For me personally, being here has been a refreshing change in corporate governance,” Parkinson said. “I came out of the quarterly earnings world. It’s not just about money at Riverwind, it’s about support and servitude. This is the first time in my career that my CEO will pop into my office and not talk about money.”
Riverwind’s positive influence here is considerable. It extends to charitable projects, employment and entertainment offerings that go beyond gaming. Their philanthropy is a long list. It includes support for the local branch of Meals on Wheels Association of America, Cavett Kids Foundation, Oklahoma Blood Institute, American Heart Association, March of Dimes, Big Brothers and Big Sisters, Habitat for Humanity and regional food banks. Plans are in the works to begin participation with the Rotary Club.
“What we’ve tried to do over the years is to integrate our people into the organizations we support,” Parkinson said. “My assistant general managers Kandi Link and Jeremy Lizana sit on the Cavett Kids and Meals on Wheels boards of directors respectively. We don’t want to be seen as just a fund, but as also part of the solutions.”
Lizana is also involved with Riverwind’s March of Dimes initiative.
“March of Dimes is important to me personally because we’ve had premature twins in my family, I have a nephew with Down Syndrome and another nephew with cerebral palsy,” Lizana said. “So I realize the steps March of Dimes has taken and they don’t get the attention they deserve. It has been rewarding.”
Also cited were several joint sponsorships with the University of Oklahoma.
In addition to charitable involvement they are civic-minded as well. A 2013 joint venture with Goldsby and Newcastle included the Chickasaw Nation building a $1.7 million sewage treatment plant for the city of Goldsby and a $2.1 million water tower for Newcastle. Included were other infrastructure improvements that benefit McClain County.
Riverwind is among the largest private employers in Norman. It’s known as a good place to work with relatively high wages and generous benefits package. It’s a 24/7/ 365 workplace.
“We have about a thousand employees,” Parkinson said. “Around 85 percent of them get free benefits including a comprehensive medical package. The Chickasaw Nation has its own hospital and clinics including the Sovereign Clinic which is also open to the public, 500 yards away from our casino.”
Most medical procedures and pharmaceutical prescriptions have no employee co-pay.
“Chickasaw Nation Governor Anoatubby believes it is important that we’re invested in the people we touch,” Parkinson said. “The medical structure and investment in employees is impressive and unlike anywhere else I’ve ever worked in the past 30 years plus.”
In addition to gaming (slot) machines and card games such as poker and blackjack, Riverwind offers attractive entertainment options. The casino’s 1,500 seat Showplace Theater is the only one of its kind in Norman. It is surpassed only by some of the University of Oklahoma’s venues. The Showplace Theater has hosted the annual “Celebrity Sing” fundraiser benefiting United Way of Norman for several years.
“Later this month we will be receiving an award from the Academy of Country Music for ‘Casino of the Year-Small Capacity,” Parkinson said. “We’re committed to bringing good country music but we’re also spreading our wings into comedy, rock ‘n roll and rhythm and blues shows.”
Performance tickets are reasonably priced and the theater atmosphere is high quality.
“Performers like coming here in part, because the room’s acoustics are good,” Parkinson said.
Riverwind has several dining options to compliment an evening of entertainment.
Casinos have had their detractors for some understandable reasons. What’s undeniable is Riverwind’s variety of positive impacts on Norman.