Tribal gaming operators in Oklahoma are not happy with recent developments involving a plan for more casino revenues by the state. Governor Kevin Stitt has announced the idea of a plan to reevaluate the current compacts with the tribes and possibly change the 4% to 10% payments from net revenues to a higher percentage.
For Governor Stiff, he fells the industry should be revaluated regarding the compact with the Cherokee Nation due to the maturity of the industry in the state. A Cherokee Nation citizen himself, Stitt has stated that the government needs to sit down with the tribal partners and bring the 13 year compacts to an agreement that reflects the current market conditions of the industry.
Casino gambling is big business in Oklahoma as 130 venues can be found throughout the state. Gambling is provided in smaller forms via gas station annexes to larger resort style casinos. With exclusivity fees, the casinos brought in close to $139 million for the state, generated from close to $2.3 billion in revenues from games featured in the compacts.
In January, the compacts are set to be renewed. Many tribal leaders are not happy with Governor Stitt’s comments, especially since the compacts are set to be renewed. Tribal leaders look at the fees as part of their overall contribution to the state and this is on top of what they bring to the community by investing in health care, infrastructure and education, among other things.
Tribal groups feel that the Governor is not recognizing the true value of the tribes in the state. The Quapaw Nation is one of the largest employers in Oklahoma. They commented on the idea of the governor and stated that in his recent op-ed piece, he does not recognize the value of the tribes regarding what they bring to the community.
Disappointed in the Approach
Tribal leaders were also disappointed in the approach the governor took regarding the idea of compact changes. Instead of coming to them himself, he announced the idea via the opinion piece. The tribes were surprised to see the information, especially since it seemingly came from nowhere.
There is a disagreement between the tribes and governor regarding the compacts. The governor feels that the compacts need to be renegotiated before renewal can take place and the tribes feel that if an agreement cannot be reached, the compacts will automatically renew.
With no compact, the tribes in Oklahoma will not be able to offer games at their casinos. This would include card games and slot-style electronic games. These games do not require fees to the state. It seems Stitt wants to see the tribes pay much more than they are currently. He has commented that other states pay 20 to 25 percent and that Oklahoma’s exclusivity fees are among the lowest in the state.
However, if you compare neighbors New Mexico and Arizona, the fees are under the 10% mark, as they currently are in Oklahoma.