State's Money From Tribal Gaming Fees Lower Than Expected

Sunday, December 3rd 2006, 2:32 pm
By: News On 6

TULSA, Okla. (AP) Oklahoma American Indian tribes have paid more than $21.5 million in gaming revenues to the state this year, but that amount is far below the state's projections, state officials said.

In the two years since Oklahoma voters approved State Question 712, which allowed the state to enter into compacts with tribes that sponsored gaming, the state has collected $29.7 million in ``exclusivity fees'' from certain gambling machines and table games.

The state had projected that it would collect $70 million in such fees this year. The $21.5 million total does not include December amounts, which will be paid next month.

Most of the state's revenue from gaming goes toward education.

Among the tribes, the Cherokee and Chickasaw nations have paid the most this year. The 250,000-member Cherokee tribe has paid $6.2 million to the state from its seven gaming venues, while the 38,000-member Chickasaw tribe has paid $6.1 million this year.

The revenues paid by the tribes are based on a percentage derived from compacted Class III gaming machines and table card games, state officials said. Derek Campbell from the Office of State Finance said those revenues are just a small part of what tribes make from offering gaming.

``The fees are not representative of a tribe's gaming revenues as a whole,'' Campbell said. ``Class II gaming still makes up the majority, about two-thirds, of the electronic gaming in the state, although we are seeing more compacted games each month.''

David Stewart, the chief executive officer of the Cherokees' gaming interest, said that tribe's casinos have about 1,500 compacted machines and that more will be added as games become available.

``We should see revenues to the state increase as tribes continue to increase the number of compacted games,'' Stewart said.

But Brian Campbell, the chief executive officer for Chickasaw Nation Enterprises, said that adding more compacted games to that tribe's casinos won't necessarily increase state revenues.

``The customers dictate the number of compacted games in our facilities,'' Brian Campbell said. ``We have installed compacted games in many of our facilities and our revenues suffered because those games weren't as popular as our Class II games.''