Oklahoma Tribal Casino Opposition Deploys Ad Campaign Demanding More Gaming Revenue
Posted on: February 7, 2020, 09:55h.
Last updated on: February 7, 2020, 11:43h.
Oklahoma’s tribal casinos aren’t sharing enough of their gaming win with the state. So says a newly formed opposition group that has gone on the offensive with an advertising campaign blitz.
Gov. Kevin Stitt (R) is under the impression the Class III gaming compacts that allow more than 30 federally recognized tribes to operate slot machines and table games in the Sooner State expired January 1 after a 15-year run. The tribes contend the arrangements automatically renewed.
Stitt says the four to six percent tax on slot win and 10 percent on table games given to the state is far too low. A group called Oklahomans for Fairness agrees.
Oklahoma casinos share just one-fourth of what the surrounding states’ casinos share,” a 30-second commercial produced by the organization declares. “That’s not fair and it’s time for this to change. It’s time for the casinos to play fair.”
Oklahoma’s tribal casinos paid the state nearly $139 million last year. The money is predominantly used to fund public education.
Oklahomans for Fairness compares the state’s tribal gaming tax to commercial rates in neighboring states. The group points to commercial gaming taxes of 26 percent in New Mexico, 14 percent in Colorado, 25 percent in Kansas and Missouri, 18 percent in Arkansas, and 23 percent in Louisiana.
Stitt faced backlash this week from the Oklahoma Legislature after he called on them to pass a bill that would allow him to use rainy day money to bridge the education funding gap as he continues his fight against the tribes.
The governor says he plans to reject gaming payments until the matter is resolved in court. Democratic lawmakers say Stitt should have realized his “unwinnable fight” would result in missing education funds.
The governor says he isn’t involved with Oklahomans for Fairness. Stitt spokesperson Baylee Lakey said, “We have no knowledge of these ads.” That isn’t to say, however, that the group isn’t backed by some powerful individuals.
Jonathan Small, president of the Oklahoma Council of Public Affairs, is president of Oklahomans for Fairness. The committee was incorporated by former US Sen. Tom Coburn (R).
Tribal Compact Rates
Stitt wants to renegotiate the tribes’ compacts, and has set a minimum tax at 20 percent for slot machines. How egregious of an increase that is depends on which state is compared. Several jurisdictions surrounding the Sooner State offer tribal gaming.
In Kansas, tribes don’t share a dime with the state. Instead, they only cover expenses incurred by the state in governing the tribal casinos. The same is true in Colorado and Wyoming, where compacts don’t mandate a revenue-sharing provision.
In New Mexico, tribal casinos share between 8.75 percent and 9.5 percent, depending on their gross gaming revenue (GGR). Arizona taxes Native American gaming win at a rate of 3.5-8 percent, and South Dakota nine percent. Michigan tribes share eight to 10 percent.
On the other end of the spectrum, in Connecticut, the state’s Mashantucket Pequot and Mohegan Indians direct 25 percent of their slot revenue to the government. Several New York tribes share 25 percent, too. In Florida, the Seminole Tribe has given the state $350 million annually. But that recently stopped as the tribe and state tries to settle a several years-long dispute.
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