Seminole chief Greg Chilcoat and Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt are arguing over how much tribal casinos should contribute to society. Stitt wants to tax operators more heavily whereas Chilcoat believes the tribes have been doing their fair share.
Oklahoma Tribes Launch Campaign to Support Casino
Oklahoma’s tribal operators have launched a large-scale public campaign focused on boosting their reputation and trying to win a dispute with state Gov. Kevin Stitt who is determined to tax the tribes more.
The case is most likely going to reach court and be settled there, but in the meantime, tribal operators will try to inform members of the public about the broad investments they have been doing, boosting everything from healthcare to the economy, and providing residents with stable employment.
Seminole Chief Greg Chilcoat didn’t specifically argue that the tribes were better prepared to direct funding for the state and stimulate growth and sustainability. Chilcoat noted that the current predicament with Gov. Stitt was not a matter of how much tribes should be taxed, but rather how a single revenue stream can be divided.
Some have suggested that the tribes have too much clout and they need to be reminded that the state can still decide on matters that affect all residents, including taxation. Yet, the tribes have argued that their economic impact in the state has reached $15 billion.
Measurable Economic Impact
The tribes have also paid estimated $150 million in licensing fee, a rate that has doubled since 2009. Operators need to pay between 4% and 10% of gross gaming revenue (GGR). These fees apply exclusively on Las Vegas machines, i.e. Class III gaming products. Chickasaw, Choctaw, Cherokee, Muscogee Creek and Osage account for two-thirds of all such Class III machines.
Chilcoat also discussed the idea of tribes trying to distribute more money among community members:
“It’s just taking money from (a form of) local government and giving it to the state to send out to wherever. I’m not saying we’d do better than the state, but when I can walk out my front door and see my neighbor that needs help, that’s who you’re going to help.”
United for Oklahoma, as the tribal coalition in the state, has prepared a number of marketing materials to air on TV and be posted all over social media. Oklahoma has around 38 small tribal governments and they are all part of the marketing campaign as well.
The tribes are citing examples of good policymaking and governance by recognized tribe members. Especially in Tulsa, the tribes consider themselves to be fully-focused on the needs of the community.
Tulsa Area United Way Chief Executive Officer Alison Anthony appeared in one of the videos reaffirming the stance of Oklahoma tribal officials and casino bosses. Another person to appear in the videos and vow support for the tribes is Mental Health Association Oklahoma Chief Executive Officer Mike Brose.
Both Anthony and Brose agreed under the condition that they are not involved in a political conflict or asked about politically sensitive issues.
Meanwhile, Gov. Stitt has said that he will suspend the compacts of several operators effective January 1, 2020.