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Privatizing state resorts called a budget-cutting option

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) _ Some state officials are wondering whether the private sector might be able to do a better job of running state resorts and golf courses that are beset with declining revenue.

``We're just digging a hole we can't get out of financially,'' said Jane Jayroe, executive director of the Oklahoma Tourism and Recreation Department.

``We really need to reach some consensus about the future of resorts and golf operations. I would hope that would happen with the new governor and legislative leaders in the near future.''

Tourism is one of the top industries in the state, generating about $3.8 million for the Oklahoma economy annually.

The Tourism Department has a $29 million appropriated budget and earns about the same amount annually from revenues assessed for such things as using the parks and resorts. It's appropriation has been cut by $3.1 million since the state began having budget problems last year.

A large, international hotel system manages Quartz Mountain Arts and Conference Center, which is owned by the state.

Private management could be helpful at other state lodges as well, particularly where investment is needed to improve facilities.

Lake Texoma Lodge needs refurbishing. and the Tourism Department would like to see a private developer come in and provide capital for improvements.

Last week, state schools Superintendent Sandy Garrett suggested the state allow American Indian tribes to use state lodges for gambling in return for a cut of the gambling revenues.

Jayroe opposes this.

``I personally do not think it would be good use to have a casino gambling establishment within a family oriented state park,'' she said.

In the first six months of this fiscal year, revenue from resorts is $3.7 million, a drop of $437,124 from the same period a year ago.

During the first half of this fiscal year, golf revenues produced $2.1 million, a drop of $189,130 from the same period a year ago, she said.
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