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Oklahoma Senate leader encourages promotion of gaming compacts

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TULSA, Okla. (AP) _ An Oklahoma legislator encouraged school administrators to promote state compacts with American Indian tribes which operate casinos.

Indian tribes have 65 casinos that comprise a $2 billion to $3 billion industry, state Senate President Pro Tem Cal Hobson said Wednesday.

``What they are begging us to do is to compact with them,'' Hobson, D-Lexington, said at a meeting sponsored by the Cooperative Council for Oklahoma School Administration.

The compacts mean the state and tribes could ``share some of that revenue, provide regulation, provide standards and invest that money back into infrastructure, education and health care,'' he said.

Hobson also suggested that school administrators support an effort to boost the state tax on cigarettes from 23 cents a pack to 62 cents, which is the national average.

The additional revenue would be invested in cessation programs, education and building a world-class cancer center, he said.

Tribes would be asked to invoke the same cigarette tax increase at smoke shops, proceeds from which could be invested in health care for American Indians, he said in a story from the Tulsa World's Capitol bureau.

``If you do not go back to your community and talk about new and different methods of voluntary additional revenue _ cigarettes, gaming, those kind of things _ you are going to die on the vine,'' he warned.

``Because if you do not hold that discussion, the Legislature _ I know them well _ will take a pass.''

Gov. Brad Henry, who spoke before Hobson, also told the administrators to ``stand up in your local community.

``When you actually accomplish things, you step on some toes, you're going to make some people mad ... but the alternative is to not move Oklahoma forward,'' Henry said.

Henry said he hopes $40 million to $50 million can be restored to education, particularly to the House Bill 1017 fund, to bring education back to a 6.5 percent cut like other state agencies this year.

And then, hopefully, education could be kept ``at a standstill this year,'' he said.
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