- Oklahoma’s governor to debate gambling taxation for tribal operators
- Tribes reluctant to agree to an increase in taxation
- A tribal representative argues that they are one of the largest employers in the state
Oklahoma governor is trying to strike a new bargain with the state’s tribal casino operators, which will see them contribute more to the state’s budget. Attempts so far have been met with opposition.
Oklahoma Governor Addresses State Compacts Issue
Oklahoma Governor Kevin Stitt has been looking for a way to introduce new gambling compacts with the Native Indian tribes in the state, but he has met opposition negotiating the terms with the tribes.
Gov. Stitt believes that tribes should be contributing more to the state’s coffers whereas the tribes are perfectly happy with the current arrangement. The prevalence of tribal operators is quite substantial with 35 official tribes and 130 casinos across the state.
Lawmakers want to come up with a new compact that would bite into the tribes’ gambling revenue and allocate a little more to the state. Mr. Stitt has been quite adamant about introducing a higher tax levy on tribal gross gaming revenue.
Today, tribal gaming is the eighth-largest industry in Oklahoma. We are now the third-largest gaming market in the country, behind only Nevada and California, generating an estimated $4.5 billion in annual revenue for the tribes, and home to the world’s largest casino.
Yet, he wasn’t overly-assertive or aggressive in his line of reasoning. Mr. Stitt spoke of the tribes as partners that he and the state recognized both for their identity and economic contributions to the state as is. Still, he insisted that he would seek a way to boost tribal contributions.
Difficult Decisions Ahead of the Road
The governor spoke about renewing the existing compacts, which would be the simplest thing to do, but he also argued that “dificult decisions” would need to be made for the good of the four million residents in the state.
Stitt is in a unique position to negotiate the deal as he is member of the Cherokee Nation tribe. He is also convinced that re-negotiating the compacts is necessary as it would allow for a new bargain that better reflects current market conditions. The tribes do pay a fair bit at up to 10% of their GGR.
Of course voices against have been also quite determined to stop Stitt in his tracks. John Berrey from Quapaw Nation has pointed out that while Mr. Stitt may take the tribes at face value, there is also the fact that these casinos are one of the largest employer in the state.
What’s forming up ahead appears to be an impasse whereby neither lawmaker nor tribe are willing to budge. A similar situation can be seen in Florida where the local government is trying to strike a compact agreement with the tribes, which are still contributing to the state’s budget, even though the legally binding agreement has already expired and no new contact has been negotiated.