OK Indian Tribes Pay State $106M In Gaming Revenues

Wednesday, July 8th 2009, 12:03 pm
By: News On 6

Associated Press

OKLAHOMA CITY -- The 29 Oklahoma-based American Indian tribes that offer gaming contributed almost $106 million to state coffers during the just-completed fiscal year, according to a report from the Office of State Finance.

That is a 23% increase over the previous year, when the state received about $81 million from the tribes.

"It's still growing," state Treasurer Scott Meacham said. "We don't know where it's going to top out at."

Under compacts between the state and the tribes, the state receives a percentage of revenue from card games and Las Vegas-style gaming machines.

While most of the money goes to education, the first $250,000 goes to the state Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services.

Among the state's tribes, the Chickasaw Nation paid the most at $28.7 million. The Choctaw Nation contributed $21.5 million.

"It keeps getting better from the state's perspective," Meacham said.

He said Oklahoma casinos are attracting a wider variety of people as tribe's have upgraded casinos over the years.

The Chickasaws have been among the top contributors since Oklahoma tribes were allowed to offer gaming, but tribal officials aren't complaining.

"From a business perspective, it makes sense to contribute to our state's education efforts, as well as various economic development projects, because it gives Oklahoma the edge over other states and the end result provides benefits for Oklahoma and Chickasaw citizens," said Bill Lance, CEO of the tribe's commerce division.

The tribe's payout increased by a third over 2008, an increase officials attribute to the expansion of WinStar World Casino near Thackerville.

The half-mile-long casino off Interstate 35 near the Texas border now ranks as one of the largest casinos in the country, officials said.

The Choctaws have opened new casinos this year in McAlester, Stringtown and Grant to replace old ones, she said. New casinos are set to open next year in Durant and Idabel.