Oklahoma's 38 federally recognized Indian tribes produce an estimated $10.8 billion impact in the state's production of goods and services, with more than 70 percent of that effect coming from the tribes' gambling operations, according a report issued Tuesday.
Tribal government and business operations directly employ more than 50,000 people, and support a total of 87,174 full-time jobs in the state, according to an analysis by the Steven C. Agee Economic Research & Policy Institute at Oklahoma City University. Gaming accounted for more than half of those jobs, the report said.
Indians represent nearly 13 percent of Oklahoma's population, according to the 2010 Census. The total direct and indirect economic impact of the tribes represents 7 percent of the state's total economic output in 2010.
State Commerce Secretary Dave Lopez said the analysis reflects the “significant” influence that tribes have on Oklahoma's economy.
While much of the tribes' impact is grounded in gambling, Lopez said the study reflects a growing economic diversity among Indian ventures in Oklahoma.
The analysis also provides a tool that never has been available to the state to make decisions, Lopez said.
“What it does for the Commerce Department is to get us really more focused on where we can bring our resources to bear,” he said.
Choctaw Nation Chief Greg Pyle said the study “erases any doubt” about the substantial affect of tribal economic activities and investments.
“They are having a huge impact, especially in rural Oklahoma where jobs are historically in short supply,” Pyle said in a statement.
Tribal business operations, including gaming, professional services and retail, generated $5.6 billion in revenue, the report estimated. More than $4.8 billion of that revenue was estimated to come from gaming operations, the report said.
Of the 53,747 people employed by tribes, 37,531 work in tribal businesses such as casinos, retailers and professional service operations, the report said. About 85 percent of the people working for tribal businesses — an estimated 32,469 — were employed in gaming, the report said.
Tribal payroll payments total $1.5 billion, or $27,610 per employee, the report said.
The tribes made direct payments of $792 million to state entities for medical care access, education, social services and economic development opportunities for tribal citizens, the report said.
The report, titled “The Statewide Impacts of Oklahoma Tribes,” was funded by The Cherokee Nation, The Chickasaw Nation, The Choctaw Nation and the Commerce Department. The institute estimated the figures after reviewing financial information provided by seven tribes, which included the reports' sponsors as well as The Citizen Potawatomi Nation, The Muscogee (Creek) Nation, The Peoria Tribe and the Shawnee Tribe.
Because of the limited sample size, determining the actual impact of tribal activities is “difficult,” the report said. “Based on our methodology, their true impacts are as likely to be understated as they are overstated,” the report concluded.
Research Economist Kyle Dean said the OCU study is the first effort by economists to gauge the direct and indirect impact of tribal operations in Oklahoma. Cherokee Nation Principal Chief Bill John Baker said the study, which he labeled “groundbreaking,” quantifies the significant economic contributions of tribes.