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Oklahoma Indian gaming revenues soar

Oklahoma revenues from Indian gaming have skyrocketed, bringing a record $118.2 million to state coffers.
BY RANDY ELLIS Published: August 15, 2010

State revenues from Indian gaming have soared in recent years, largely due to the success of casinos operated by the Chickasaw, Choctaw and Cherokee nations.

Combined, the three tribes are responsible for 58 percent of the record $118.2 million in gaming fees paid to the state last fiscal year by 30 Indian tribes, according to records obtained from the Office of State Finance.

The Chickasaw Nation paid the state $33.3 million, the Choctaw Nation paid $22.7 million and the Cherokee Nation paid $12.2 million.

The other 27 tribes, combined, paid the state about $50 million.

Together, the 30 tribes are responsible for boosting state revenues from Indian gaming 5,000 percent in six years as tribes have expanded their casino operations and shifted to more Las Vegas-style games.

Indian gaming has become a huge industry in Oklahoma, with tribes generating about $2.9 billion in 2008, according to the 2009-2010 edition of Casino City's Indian Gaming Industry Report, authored by California economist Alan Meister.

The success of tribal gaming operations and the resulting windfall to the state could not have come at a better time, said state Treasurer Scott Meacham.

With the state experiencing major drops in revenues from many of its traditional funding sources, state officials used Indian gaming money to stave off some cuts, Meacham said.

Education was the primary beneficiary, since 88 percent of Indian gaming revenue is earmarked for common education funding, Meacham said.

The remaining 12 percent originally was earmarked for a state higher education scholarship program but now goes to the state's general fund.

The Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services gets $250,000 a year of gaming revenues for treatment and educational programs related to compulsive gambling disorders.

Games change

Several factors have contributed to the state's growth in Indian gaming revenues, but Meacham said the biggest has been a major shift from Class II to Class III gaming machines in Indian casinos.

Class II games are defined as bingo and electronic devices in aid of bingo, Meacham said. The state doesn't collect any money off those games.

Class III games include electronic games that are similar to Las Vegas-style slot machines, networked games that are linked with games in other locations to produce large progressive jackpots, and skill games like video poker. These games are preferred by most gamblers, experts say. Tribes are required to enter into state compacts to offer Class III games. The state collects 4 to 6 percent from these electronic games and 10 percent off card games, Meacham said.

The distinction between Class II and Class III electronic games has often been blurred in the past, but threats of enforcement actions against question-able Class II games and a realization of the greater revenue potential of Class III games have prompted Oklahoma tribes to increasingly migrate to the more popular games, authorities say.

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Gaming fees paid to Oklahoma by 30 tribes
Oklahoma Indian tribes paid the state a record $118.2 million in gaming fees during fiscal year 2010, which ended June 30.

Following is a breakdown of the fees paid by 30 tribes:

• Absentee Shawnee: $278,389

• Apache: $336,199

• Cherokee Nation: $12,208,042

• Cheyenne-Arapaho: $2,850,210

• Chickasaw Nation: $33,330,424

• Choctaw Nation: $22,753,832

• Citizen Potawatomi: $5,499,238

• Comanche Nation: $2,277,850

• Delaware Nation: $374,534

• Eastern Shawnee Tribe: $1,453,270

• Fort Sill Apache: $1,461,604

• Iowa: $1,141,585

• Kaw Nation: $394,152

• Kickapoo: $895,422

• Kiowa Tribe: $2,314,546

• Miami Tribe: $343,742

• Muscogee (Creek): $8,635,061

• Osage: $4,858,438

• Otoe-Missouria: $5,051,242

• Ottawa: $196,563

• Pawnee: $267,580

• Peoria: $470,940

• Quapaw Tribe: $5,706,714

• Sac and Fox: $1,050,365

• Seminole: $250,537

• Seneca Cayuga: $601,761

• Thlopthlocco Tribal Town: $12,116

• Tonkawa: $2,451,375

• Wichita & Affiliated: $309,075

• Wyandotte: $436,897


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