Most of Oklahoma’s major tribes are interested in expanded gaming

Monday, February 7th 2005, 9:38 am
By: News On 6

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) -- Thirteen major Indian tribes in Oklahoma are seeking federal approval of agreements with the state to expand gambling.

The agreements, or compacts, are permitted under a voter-approved measure that allows tribes to offer non-house backed card games and electronic bingo games that work more like Las Vegas slot machines. In exchange for the new games, the compacts give the state a share of the gaming profits and some oversight.

Four of the compacts have been approved by the federal government so far.

State Finance Director Scott Meacham has been surprised at the number of tribes who have signed up for the expanded gaming, which includes blackjack and poker. He's certain the state's $7.4 million share estimated this fiscal year will be surpassed.

The $53 million projected for the fiscal year beginning July 1 is probably low, too, he said. That's partially because the poker craze is at its height, Meacham said.

Ultimately, the state expects to make $71 million a year, all of which is earmarked for education.

The Cherokee Nation and Absentee Shawnee Tribe began offering tournament-style card games Jan. 27, within hours after their approved compacts with the state were published in the Federal Register.

Also posted in the register that day were compacts for the Miami Nation and Comanche Nation, but neither has begun offering the new card games.

Tribes that compact with the state can offer tournament-style card games. In return, they collect a 10 percent fee from the pot of each blackjack game and remit it to the state, said Brian Foster, head of the Oklahoma Indian Gaming Association.

Players compete against each other, but the casino may collect its own additional fee from players. Most tribes plan to collect 10 percent of the ante. For instance, at a $10 blackjack table, the casino would collect an extra dollar.

Tribes deciding to take advantage of the expanded gaming must pay Meacham's office a $50,000 start-up fee, plus a $35,000 annual monitoring fee.

The new law also allows three racetracks to offer a limited number of electronic gambling machines. Those tracks are Remington Park in Oklahoma City (650 games), Blue Ribbon Downs at Sallisaw (250) and Will Rogers Downs at Claremore (250).