It’s been an incredible summer for Golden Valley, a tiny community of just over 400 residents in Oklahoma’s Oklahoman newspaper’s hometown of Okmulgee, a town of just under 200.
On June 1, Golden Valley residents voted overwhelmingly to reject the creation of a casino in their community, which was just a few miles from the home of the state’s largest casino, the Wynn Resorts.
This year, the casino’s fate will likely hinge on whether it will survive in a state where casinos are the primary source of revenue for a large portion of the economy.
A casino is a $100 billion industry in America.
It has a huge footprint in the United States, from a casino-related industry that accounts for about 30% of the nation’s $3.3 trillion gross domestic product, to casinos that cater to other forms of gambling and sports betting.
The industry has been steadily growing since the 1970s, when it peaked in the mid-1980s, with nearly a dozen states including California and Nevada making the move to legalize and regulate casinos.
But the trend of casinos opening in rural areas has been growing.
As more people move to cities and the country becomes more urbanized, it’s become easier to get in on the casino game, with states and cities opening up casinos in more and more places.
So, with gambling in such a large and growing segment of the country’s economy, what is it that makes gambling in a rural community like Golden Valley unique?
The answer, according to Golden Valley’s mayor, Chris Miller, is its history of being a gambling hub.
As a small community with only 1,500 residents, Golden Valleys history in the gambling business is intertwined with that of the larger city of Oklahoma.
As Miller explains, GoldenValley’s reputation as a gambling town dates back to when the city was called Golden Valley City.
That’s when casino operators like the one in Golden Valley opened their doors.
The location of the casino was also important.
“I remember the first time I came to the casino, I was like, ‘This is what it’s like,'” Miller recalls.
“And there was this giant sign in the back of the hotel room with the casino on it.”
That sign is still up in the hotel lobby, as well as in the restaurant and on the back window of his hotel room.
In the early 1990s, Miller says, a lot of people in the community were afraid to gamble, fearing the negative publicity it would bring to their city.
“People didn’t want to get involved in this business, they didn’t know how to gamble,” Miller says.
“They had no idea what the rules were.”
In the late 1990s and early 2000s, however, the gambling industry expanded as a result of the global economic boom and recession.
As the economy continued to expand, so did the number of people gambling, and so did a demand for casino gaming.
By the time the recession hit in 2007, many in Golden Valley realized the risks involved with gambling.
“There was a lot more competition and a lot less competition in our community,” Miller explains.
“We had a lot to lose.”
When the recession came to an end, gambling came back in a big way.
“Gambling in Oklahoma is booming.
It’s not going away, and it’s not coming back.”
A lot of Golden Valleys community members are hoping that gambling will continue to flourish.
In fact, a casino has opened up in Golden River, a small town of less than 1,000 residents just outside of Golden Valley.
But, as Miller says with a smile, it can be difficult to keep a community that has been so active for so long going strong.
“In the long run, you have to stay strong, you just have to keep your eye on the prize,” Miller stresses.
“You have to make sure you are in the forefront of that.
And it’s a great community, and we have a lot in common, so that’s what we’re trying to keep doing.”
For many, that means getting involved in the world of gaming.
But it also means learning how to keep gambling from affecting those who are trying to make ends meet.
“If you’re going to gamble with a casino, you better know how much it’s going to cost you, what you’re buying, and how much you’re spending,” Miller tells Newsweek.
“Because that’s your money.
You need to know how it’s paid for.”
This article originally appeared in Newsweek Magazine.