Tribal casinos in Oklahoma contributed in fees to the state for the fiscal year ending June 30, 2020 significantly less compared to what they paid a year before, a recent report from a local news media informed.
According to the report from the Office of Management and Enterprise Services (OMES) cited by the media, tribal gaming establishments generated just below $123 million for the twelve months ending June 30, a drop of 18% from the $150 million for the same period prior.
OIGA Blames Casino Closures for the Fee Slump
A statement from the Oklahoma Indian Gaming Association (OIGA) released Monday blamed the closure of casino properties as the major reason for the state revenue disruption and the drop of nearly 30 million from the record high set in 2019.
“At the beginning of March 2020, Tribal Gaming in Oklahoma was experiencing a lucrative year, with exclusivity fees for fiscal year 2019-20 projected to top out between $155 – $165 million, which would have been a record.”Sheila Morago, Executive Director, OIGA
Tribal casinos in Oklahoma, much like in any other state, do not have to comply with state orders, yet they elected to voluntarily close their gaming resorts to support federal and state efforts to curb the further spread of the virus disease.
“By mid-March, things had drastically changed. COVID-19 made its way to Oklahoma, and Tribal Nations took swift action, temporarily closing all gaming facilities by March 23.”Sheila Morago, Executive Director, OIGA
The terms of the tribal gaming compacts in the state require tribal operators to pay exclusivity fee to the state government on a monthly basis, fees ranging from 4% for the first $10 million of annually adjusted gross revenues on electronic games, to 10% of monthly net win on table games.
Casinos Re-Opened, Fees Started Picking Up
Figures released by OMES showed monthly payments from the tribal casino operators to the state in March fell drastically to just $21,000, compared to $12.2 million in February, obviously due to the casinos being closed since mid-March. Monthly payments started rising back in May, coinciding with the re-opening of the casinos, reaching $2.7 million for the month, and going just below February pre-closure level in June, $11.7 million.
The tribal compacts in Oklahoma continue to be a hot subject, as 4 tribes filed a lawsuit against the US Department of the Interior and State Governor Kevin Stitt. The Cherokee, Chickasaw, Choctaw and Citizen Potawatomi Nations seek to protect the integrity of the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act (IGRA), which they claim was affected by the gaming compacts Governor Stitt signed with the Comanche Nation and the Otoe-Missouria Tribe.
The controversial compacts which the governor signed in April and were approved by the US Department of the Interior silently, even led to OIGA amending its rules to exclude the two tribes from membership.