August 1, 2016
The Oklahoma Indian Gaming Association brought is annual conference to Tulsa last week. It featured the latest in gambling technology andsecurity. It also brought the reminder of how important the industry is to Oklahoma.
The association’s annual study on tribal gaming estimates that there is a $4.2 billion impact on the state economy. That’s a lot of jobs, taxes and fees. And that translates to much-needed funding for public education and other state priorities.
According to speakers during the convention, since 2006, Oklahoma tribes have paid the state more than $980 million in exclusivity fees and that total is expected to exceed $1 billion this year.
Tribal casino gambling was approved by voters in 2004 and has annually paid the state more than $100 million in exclusivity fees, based on revenues of more than $2.1 billion, according to the state Office of Management and Enterprise Services Gaming Compliance Unit.
Those exclusivity fees are distributed to the Education Reform Revolving Fund, the general revenue fund and the Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services through compacts between the state and the tribes.
The Indian Gaming Regulatory Act of 1988 mandates that net revenues of gaming be directed to tribes for government, economic development and general welfare use, and to charitable organizations and to help fund local governments.
The controversy continues over gambling and the problems it causes, but the economic impact of the tribal gambling industry is undeniable.
Oklahoma ranks in the top two states in the country for number of gaming machines and number of casinos.
That leaves some wondering if and when the state will oversaturate, and the growth trend will start reversing itself. That hasn’t happened yet, and it seems that the desire for casino gambling in Oklahoma remains strong.
The popularity of the casinos seems to prove their viability and importance to the state and to their customers. The big casinos are regional economic engines. Businesses, hotels, restaurants and shopping malls spring up around them, improving the economic base in the region.
Love it or hate it, legal gambling is here to stay and has become an important contributor to many positive things in our state.