Deadline Approaching For Embattled Tahlequah Casino

Friday, July 27th 2012, 10:26 pm
By: News On 6

The Keetoowah casino in Tahlequah may have to close its doors on Monday night if the federal government does not grant a last minute ruling in its favor.

Keetoowah tribal leaders have been fighting this battle for years. If they cannot get the land on which the casino sits into trust status, the casino will have to shut down, which many say will cause some unintended consequences.

The Keetoowah tribe says the casino is the backbone of the tribe, and for the last 26 years, has helped the town of Tahlequah tremendously.

"This is the local economy we're talking about," casino general manager Rod Fourkiller said.

According to Fourkiller, the casino pumps $133 million into the town's economy in any given year.

7/10/2012 Related Story: Tahlequah Casino May Be Forced To Close This Month

If closed, at least 200 people will be out of work.

"The city, as an organization, would not be able to absorb enough people to really make an impact," said Tahlequah Mayor Jason Nichols. "Those people, as far as the city's concerned, with its hiring power, would be kind of on their own. I hate to say that, but that would be the case."

Revenue from the casino also helps fund programs like scholarships, housing, and the Cherokee County Juvenile Drug Court.

"The Keetoowahs have supported us in every way we've ever asked them to," said Cherokee County Juvenile Drug Court director Cindy Farmer.

Farmer said, every other year, the Keetoowahs donate to their program.

"We have support, but you take one support resource out and it really does impact all of you, and I'm not the only organization that they support. There's many others," Farmer said.

But through all of this commotion, casino leaders have managed to find one positive.

"It's brought a lot of us together," Fourkiller said. "Whether it be tribal members or employees, or whether it be just the community, in general, I think it's brought us all together. Everybody's joined up in the fight."

The tribe also owns 76 acres in Tahlequah that has already been put into trust status.

They now are waiting to see if the two acres that the casino sits on will follow suit.

Tribal leaders are confident the federal government will make a ruling in their favor by Monday night.