Economic Impact Of The Cherokee Casino In Catoosa

Thursday, October 5th 2006, 9:37 am
By: News On 6

It's a successful business owned and operated by Oklahomans. As the Indian gaming industry grows in Oklahoma, a popular public topic is how much money is generated and where it all goes.

News on 6 reporter Heather Lewin looks at the economic impact of one Tulsa area casino on its neighbors and the state.

Things are rapidly changing in Catoosa. And whether or not you're in favor of gaming, the fact remains casinos like the Cherokee Resort pump millions of dollars into Oklahoma's economy. This is the image that comes to mind for many when you mention Indian gaming. But officials at Cherokee Nation Enterprises, which runs the Catoosa Casino, say there's a lot more going on behind the scenes.

Cherokee Nation Enterprises CEO David Stewart: "We've added over a thousand jobs here in Catoosa, of course a lot of those employees live in the surrounding area." With a total of 1,600 workers, and a payroll of $50-million, the casino is the area's largest employer.

CNE officials say the city of Catoosa has seen a 25 to 30 percent increase in sales tax revenue since the Casino opened. David Stewart: "Now we can't specifically attribute that to the casino, but what we can say is the economic development that's going on in this corridor is significantly driven by the development we have here."

Tribally owned businesses are tax exempt, but Stewart says that can be misleading and it doesn't mean the casino isn't contributing to the economy. CNE officials say one of the biggest impacts is drawing tourism dollars to northeast Oklahoma. They say hotel occupancy rates are often above 90-percent and thousands of those registered guests are from out of state. "We have 3,000 to 5,000 people on a Friday night, so they stop and buy gas and use the local businesses."

One Catoosa business that's gotten a big boost is Catoosa Flowers. Terri Miller says business at her small, family owned shop, has increased every month since the casino opened. "They do a lot of business with me, just the casino themselves, but they have brought a lot of employees into this area that they didn't have before.”

In addition to helping provide security officers at Catoosa schools, CNE bought two police cars and gives $6,500 a month to the Catoosa Police Department. Stewart says they want to be a good partner and grow with the community. “We see this as really a starting point for this area and we haven't seen the end yet."

David Stewart says still to come is the expansion of I-44 and a new parking garage already underway.