Lawmakers in Oklahoma are clashing with Native American Tribes over the casino industry. Governor Kevin Stitt suggests that tax fees for tribes operating casinos should be reevaluated. Oklahoma and tribes are both claiming the other is being unfair.
It’s a tough situation, yet not one that’s entirely unusual. We’ve seen a number of states clash with Native American tribes over the past several months. Let’s look at what exactly the governor is calling for, and why tribes in this state are pushing back.
Casino Gambling Laws in Oklahoma
Oklahoma is not typically thought of as the most liberal state in the US. When it comes to gambling though, lawmakers here have taken a very progressive stance. Today, most forms of gambling are completely legal and regulated here.
Oklahoma has the highest per-capita number of Native American residents. Under the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act of 1988, the tribes in this state have the ability to operate casinos. Oklahoma allows these tribes to run Class II and Class III category casino establishments.
Unsurprisingly, Oklahoma has one of the largest selections of casinos in the US. There are gaming establishments located all over the state. Some are fully-functional casinos offering a wide variety of slots and table games. Others are small and only provide limited electronic poker gaming options.
Oklahoma casinos earn huge amounts of money for the state. Now, the governor is asking for a reevaluation of the current tax structure. Why are tribes pushing so hard against this?
Oklahoma and Tribes Pushing Against Each Other Over Casino Revenue
There are more than 130 casinos spread around Oklahoma. As we already mentioned, all of these establishments are run by Native American Tribes. Last year, these tribes paid nearly $139 million to the state in taxes off of more than $2 billion in total gaming revenue.
At the moment, the tax structure calls for tribes to pay between 4% to 10% on their total gambling revenue. For years, this deal between Oklahoma and tribes has worked out for both parties. Governor Stitt is now calling for this structure to be reevaluated.
Obviously, this is not sitting well with tribal leaders. Many of these tribes argue that they contribute much more than just revenue for the state. They are one of the largest employers in Oklahoma and invest millions into healthcare, education, and infrastructure.
John Berrey, chairman of the Quapaw Nation, vented his frustration to the media this week.
“What I don’t understand, in any of his op-ed, there’s no recognition of the true value of the tribes,” he said. “(Native American tribes) are one of the largest employers in the state. We provide benefits for our employees. We’re probably the most philanthropic group in the state.”
Are Oklahoma Casino Tax Rates Going to Change?
It’s not entirely clear yet. Right now, the governor is simply asking for the state’s Gaming Board to review the current rates that casinos pay. There is no indication that these tax rates are set to officially change.
Governor Stitt may have gone about this in the wrong way. Instead of contacting the tribes directly, he voiced his opinion to the local news company. Some also feel that an agreement between Oklahoma and tribes isn’t completely necessary right now.
Under the current set of gambling laws, these casinos are granted 15-year licenses to operate. The governor believes that before the next license renewals can be granted, the state and tribal leaders must agree on new tax rates. Many tribes feel that if an agreement is not reached, these licenses will be automatically renewed.
Spokeswoman Donelle Harder claims the governor recognizes the huge contributions that the tribes make to the state. She also believes Stitt will be fair and open in creating a new agreement that benefits both the state and tribes operating casinos here.
Negotiations will take place over the next several months. Hopefully, these two parties can take part in healthy and constructive negotiations. Stay tuned for more updates on the situation between Oklahoma and tribes as they come out!