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Oklahoma Tribes Suing Insurance Companies

Casino companies throughout the United States are trying to find a way to make it through the coronavirus pandemic, and some casinos are taking drastic measures. More than 98 percent of casinos in the United States are currently shut down to stop the spread of the disease.

The Chickasaw and Choctaw Nations in Oklahoma are two of the biggest operators in the state, and they have felt the financial impacts of the shutdown. Both of these tribal nations are now suing insurance companies to receive some relief during these tough times.

Even though the Chickasaw and Choctaw nations have filed an official lawsuit against their insurance companies, it doesn’t mean that they are at risk not to receive funds. Both tribes are asking their insurance company to make a declaration that the funds will be paid.

The tribes are citing examples from other states where insurance companies have stated that a pandemic does not offer financial protection.

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This issue could eventually come down to the courts, and this could turn into a long, drawn-out battle. Insurance companies could claim that the pandemic did not cause any physical damage to the property. Casinos will argue that their “all-in” protection should offer them relief from the forced shut down due to the coronavirus, even when it comes to online gambling in Oklahoma.

The Chickasaw Nation is the biggest operator in the casino industry in the state of Oklahoma. The tribe has more than 20 casinos currently in operation throughout the state. One of their biggest properties sits right near the Oklahoma-Texas state border.

The WinStar World Casino and Resort draws customers from both southwestern states. The gaming floor at this location spans 370,000 square feet, making it one of the largest in the world.

The Choctaw have eight casinos located throughout the state of Oklahoma. Both tribes have plenty of political power in the state, and they are a huge part of the economy in the state as well.

All of the casinos owned and operated by these two tribes will remain closed through April 17 as of now, but that date could be extended. The Choctaw and Chickasaw Nations have agreed to continue paying their employees through the entirety of the shutdown.

Federal Government Providing Some Relief

If the tribal nations that operate casinos are not able to receive help from their insurance companies, the federal government could be coming to the rescue. The United States Congress recently passed a $2 trillion financial package that is set to help residents and businesses recover from the financial crisis that the coronavirus has brought on.

The National Indian Gaming Association recently wrote a letter to members of Congress asking for close to $18 billion in federal aid to help them through these tough times.

The United States Congress did not provide the $18 billion directly to the National Indian Gaming Association, but money is set aside for casinos throughout the US. The financial aid package earmarked $350 billion to the Small Business Administration Fund, and small casino operations can apply for up to $10 million.

Larger casinos can apply for a loan that will be paid out of the Treasury fund that currently sits at over $454 billion.

These two options will be available to the Chickasaw and Choctaw Tribes, but there is another way that they can get relief as well. Native American tribes will receive $10 billion in critical relief funds through the new financial aid package.

Tribal governments throughout the country will split $8 billion of that money to help them recover from the pandemic.

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