How Tribal Gaming Plays a Vital Role in Oklahoma’s Economic Growth Story?

Oklahoma has more than three dozen tribal communities. The staggering numbers indicate the tribes are influential in creating the state’s history. Today, these Native American communities also play an integral role in the socio-economic growth of the Sooner State. The major credit goes to the casinos developed on the Indian reservation land.

Let’s dig deeper into how tribal casinos have been the cornerstone of the region’s development.

What are the Tribal Casinos of Oklahoma?

Under the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act (IGRA) of 1988, native American tribes can operate casino gaming facilities on Indian premises. However, the Oklahoma gambling authorities passed the Tribal Gaming Act in November 2004. This compact protects both the public and tribal interests in the native gaming industry.

Fast forward to this day, Oklahoma has more tribal-owned casinos than any other US state. In fact, native tribe gaming is now the state’s second-largest industry for providing total gambling-related revenue.

The casino venues can host a mix of Class II and Class III games. These tribes self-regulate and manage all the gaming operations on their lands. Moreover, the act gave Oklahoma’s tribes immense financial stability.

Active Tribal Casinos in Oklahoma

Currently, the Oklahoma-based tribes manage and run 143 casinos and gaming centers. These facilities are widespread over 50 Oklahoma counties. These casino venues are also bringing massive revenue to the state.

Here’s a rundown of some prominent tribal-owned casino locations in the state.

  1. Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Tulsa – The Cherokee Nation
  2. WinStar World Casino – The Chickasaw Nation
  3. Creek Nation Casino Okemah – The Muscogee (Creek) Nation
  4. Choctaw Casinos & Resorts – The Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma
  5. River Bend Casino and Hotel – Wyandotte Tribe
  6. Newcastle Casino – The Chickasaw Nation
  7. River Spirit Casino Resort – The Muscogee Nation
  8. The Artesian Hotel, Casino & Spa – The Chickasaw Nation
  9. Apache Casino Hotel – Fort Sill Apache Tribe
  10. Buffalo Run Casino & Resort – Peoria Tribe of Indians

How are Tribal-owned Casino Clubs Impacting Okhlahoma’s Economy?

As per the IGRA of 1988, native tribe casinos must contribute a portion of their revenue to the state government. Since then, gaming institutions by native tribes have been the bedrock of economic growth in Oklahoma.

As per IGRA regulations, revenue collected from tribal casinos contributes to five purposes:

  • to benefit native communities and its members
  • for donations to charitable organizations
  • to fund tribal government programs and operations
  • to fund operations of local government agencies
  • for the general welfare of the Native American tribes
  • to promote tribal economic development

Tribe’s Financial Contribution in The Recent Years

From supporting small businesses and local partnerships to infrastructure development, these communities are an economic driver for the entire territory. The impact of tribal gaming facilities is visible throughout Oklahoma on small and large scales.

For instance, Oklahoma’s native community spent over $300 million on construction and road projects in 2019. Similarly, FY 2021-22 was also a profitable period for the state, which showed an 18% increase from the previous year. It collected over $191.5 million in tribal gaming exclusivity payments, according to The Oklahoma Indian Gaming Association Oklahoma Gaming Compliance Annual Report.

Exclusivity fees are a voter-approved tribal/state compact. The state uses this fee for the Education Reform Revolving Fund, the Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services, and the General Revenue Fund.

Revenue Generated Through Tribal Gaming Enterprises

The native casinos earned over $3.19 billion by offering Class III electronic gaming and non-banked card games in the state in 2022. The track record was also the same for the following year.

The annual economic impact of Cherokee Nation tribe enterprises alone is more than $3 billion. The major profit component is from the tribe’s casino gaming properties and hotels, such as Hard Rock Hotel and Casino.

By matching payments, Native tribes also saved $231.7 million in Medicaid costs for the state. Further, the sales tax revenue collected through the tribe’s gaming sector contributes toward infrastructure investments of the Oklahoma state.

Thus, the year-after-year revenue boom reflects the state’s dependency on tribal gaming operations.

Employment Opportunities Through Native Indian Casinos

To manage casino hotels seamlessly, the tribes require huge human resources. From hiring building engineers, technicians, and hotel staff to dealers, there are always open roles in the tribal gaming facilities. The tribal communities also host job fairs to support tribal community members and Okies.

As per the National Congress of American Indians study, tribal communities in Oklahoma support more than 85,000 jobs for Indian and non-Indian citizens. The employment opportunities also helped depressed, rural communities.

The study shows 8 in 10 employees reported job satisfaction at tribal-owned casinos. 84% of the workforce also feel tribal casinos not only create work opportunities but also provide career growth opportunities.

The Cherokee Nation Business (CNB) is one of the largest employers in northeastern Oklahoma, with a workforce of over 11,000. The Choctaw Nation also strives to enhance the future tourism revenue stream to create more job opportunities for residents and local businesses. Recently, the Chickasaw Nation tribe acquired a manufacturing facility in Marietta. This initiative safeguarded existing employees from losing their jobs.

The spurr in vacancies also positively influences the financial position of the state.

Cultural & Community Development Initiatives

Native Americans bring tribal government and businesses to rural Oklahoma, which contributes a humongous amount of money for the upliftment of those communities.

Infrastructure Development

Oklahoma’s Native American tribes facilitate essential services to their communities through the revenue from tribal gaming enterprises, including schools, water, and electricity. According to the Oklahoma Indian Gaming Association, the estimated annual economic impact on construction and operations through tribal gaming is over $2.2 billion.

For instance, the Muscogee (Creek) Nation is working on a low-water dam project in South Tulsa in collaboration with the Indian Nations Council of Governments (INCOG). The dam construction will further help expand residential, retail, and hospitality projects in the nearby area.

Tribal governments also support the local emergency services in Lowe County. It includes funding for health programs, EMS equipment, advanced ambulances, and fire trucks. Further, The Choctaw Nation heavily invests in education, housing, and healthcare projects throughout its southeast Oklahoma reservation.

It doesn’t end here. Oklahoma’s Native Indian communities are also supporting local businesses financially. Recently, the tribe provided a loan to Kayterra Farms to help expand its small business operations.

Cultural Promotion Through Tourism

Oklahoma entices myriad tourists who want to learn about the state’s vibrant Native tribe history. For instance, The Chickasaw Cultural Center in Sulphur records over two hundred thousand global visitors.

According to the chairman of OIGA, Matthew Morgan, 30% of Oklahoma tribal casino visitors are non-residents. It shows the native communities entice more tourists in the Sooner state.

Moreover, Cherokee cultural and economic development offers community support services. The main vision is to promote Cherokee cultural tourism through storytelling, events, and arts. The community also introduced the Cherokee Nation Film Office to expand the presence of Native Americans in the television and film industries.

Tribal elders also preserve significant cultural traditions using gaming revenue. They help young tribals reconnect and engage with their own heritage to sustain their lineage and cultural identity. The tribal members also create awareness among non-natives about the rich heritage of Oklahoma-based tribes.

Besides, The Chickasaw Motor Inn in Sulphur regularly initiates national marketing campaigns. These initiatives provide a richer cultural experience to travelers.

Based on a recent survey, the Choctaw Nation provided more than $300 million in tourism dollars. The growth of the tourism industry also means more income and job opportunities for locals.

Famous OK Tourist Sights Promoting Native Tribe History, Culture & Heritage

  • Visit Oklahoma City’s Red Earth Art Center to view over 1,400 native art collectibles from various Native American tribes.
  • The Gilcrease Museum in Tulsa is home to a valuable collection of American Indian and Western art.
  • Besides, there are physical re-creations of indigenous history in Cherokee Heritage Center, Tahlequah.
  • The Spiro Mounds Archaeological Center is another impressive tourist destination to explore the only remaining site of a mound-building culture.

Future Possibilities & Challenges for The State’s Tribal Gambling Market

Tribal governments are ready to explore new, robust, innovative ways to create world-class experiences that foster economic sustainability. Currently, the state’s gambling law restricts online gambling. However, Native Indian tribes look forward to the legalization of the Oklahoma online casino. It’ll increase the revenue potential for the tribal communities and the state.

Tribal authorities continuously discuss the future growth model to strengthen the casino gaming industry. Forward-thinking is a way to bring more revenue for the community and Oklahoma State while tackling roadblocks.

Bottom Line

Undoubtedly, tribal casinos shape Oklohama’s overall condition. The benefits of infrastructure improvements and continued growth extend past tribal communities. These facilities back various sectors throughout the state, including healthcare, education, youth services, infrastructure, community building, and tourism.

With large capital expenditures, more dollars will be credited to the Oklahoma economy. Hence, the growth of the Native Indian gaming industry will always be invaluable for the Sooner State.

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