Supporters of SQ 712 outpacing opponents in fund-raising

Wednesday, October 13th 2004, 6:13 am
By: News On 6

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) _ Supporters of a state question that would allow casino type gambling at Oklahoma's horse racing tracks have raised nearly eight times as much money as groups that oppose the expansion of gambling in Oklahoma.

Oklahomans for Education and Jobs, which supports the proposal, has raised slightly more than $2.3 million. Oklahomans for Good Government, which opposed the proposal, has raised $302,866, according to reports filed with the Oklahoma Ethics Commission.

State Question 712 would enact the State-Tribal Gaming Act, which would allow American Indian casinos and three state-licensed racetracks to offer new types of gambling machines.

It is among nine state questions voters will decide Nov. 2.

Slightly more than $1.5 million going to Oklahomans for Education and Jobs came from Indian tribes, with the remaining coming from gaming companies, the Remington Park racetrack in Oklahoma City and horse associations.

The group has spent a little more than $1 million on advertising, ranging from television commercials to billboards.

Approximately $205,000 of Oklahomans for Good Government's money has come from the Baptist General Convention of Oklahoma, with an additional $5,000 coming from the Sac and Fox Nation.

The Sac and Fox Nation has opposed the gaming expansion saying it takes away from a tribe's sovereignty.

``We won't win this battle through the media,'' said Ray Sanders, a spokesman for the Baptist General Convention of Oklahoma. ``We will win this battle when people of faith go to the polls and vote. We have our pulpits in our churches. Not one faith-based organization supports the expansion of gambling in our state.''

The Baptist General Convention of Oklahoma plans Oct. 24 advertising inserts in the Tulsa World and The Oklahoman, he said.

The organization also plans a grass-roots e-mail campaign, he said.

Rep. Forrest Claunch, R-Midwest City, chairman of Oklahomans for Good Government, said his organization hopes to raise substantially more money, adding that another American Indian tribe may be planning to make a donation.

``When you look at the contribution reports, it is out-of-state gaming companies, in-state gambling racetracks, horsemen and tribes,'' Claunch said. ``The billboards say it is about jobs and education. You have to ask yourself, `Wouldn't you think employers and educators would be involved?' This is really about gamblers getting to do more gambling.''

David DuVall is the Oklahoma Education Association's executive director and a co-chairman for Oklahomans for Education and Jobs. He said the measure would raise $71 million, which will go to education.

Educators might not be giving money, but they are involved in explaining the issue, he said.

If approved, the measure would save 50,000 jobs in the horse-racing industry, he said.

``We want to make sure every Oklahoman knows what is at stake and that this is an opportunity to invest $71 million in education without a tax increase,'' DuVall said.