Tahlequah Daily Press

Features

February 23, 2012

Casinos: Are there too many?

TAHLEQUAH — As the number of tribal casinos has mushroomed across Oklahoma, many residents have wondered when they will reach their saturation point.

Others have expressed concern that the increased access to casinos has created more gambling addicts, with a destructive effect on these people, their families, and their finances.

“I think the market has proved itself, kind of like in ‘Field of Dreams’ — if you build it, they will come,” said Edwin Marshall, chief of staff for the Muscogee Creek Nation, which operates 11 casinos.

As far as Marshall knows, no casinos in Oklahoma have shut down for lack of patrons.

Plans for expansion are under way at some of the Creek casinos, as well as several Cherokee Nation-owned sites.

“There continues to be room for investment in gaming,” said David Stewart, CEO of Cherokee Nation Businesses. “Those facilities that continue to offer a high level of customer service, the best amenities and a fun, safe atmosphere will continue to thrive. These are the qualities that separate Cherokee Casinos from other gaming operations.”

Construction of the new Tahlequah Cherokee Casino, planned for the intersection of U.S. 62 and State Highway 82 south of town, has been put on hold until after CNB seats several new members on its board, Stewart said. However, work is in progress at these Cherokee Casino sites:

• Site work for the new Cherokee Casino Fort Gibson began last June. The new facility, four times larger, will employ nearly 190 people, about double the current work force. The 27,500-square-foot casino will house 500 electronic games.

• Construction to triple the size of Cherokee Casino Ramona began last summer. Nearly 200 people will be employed when it opens in 2012. The current casino is a modular, 11,500-square-foot building with 211 electronic games, a restaurant, and a bar. The new permanent building will be 31,000 square feet, with a restaurant, bar, entertainment space and 500 electronic games.

• At the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Tulsa, construction began in November on a third hotel tower. It will add 100 suites and more than 55,000 square feet of entertainment and gaming space. The $52 million project will be completed this year.

The parking lot is usually full at the Keetoowah Cherokee Casino in Tahlequah. Assistant Chief Charles Locust said business is good, and he doesn’t rule out the possibility of expanding Keetoowah casino facilities.

“Every year, our sales continue to grow. We’ve never had a year where our sales have declined,” he said. “We’re at a place where we’ve got so much potential for growth in the tribe. We have the potential to really take off.”

Marshall said several Muscogee Creek Nation casinos are undergoing renovation and updating.

“Perhaps the most notable project planned in the near future is the addition of a conference hotel and additional venues at the Mackey Sand Bar [Tulsa River Spirit Casino],” he said.

Representatives of the three tribes interviewed say they provide help for guests who have compulsive gambling problems. As with any addiction, a person must first realize he or she is addicted, and that the addiction has become a problem in his or her life.

“We’re here to provide fun and safe entertainment options for our guests. At the same time, we strive to be a socially responsible community partner,” Stewart said. “Although a very small percentage of the population suffers from problem gambling, we take it very seriously. Our measures go above and beyond what is required by Oklahoma law, and that’s something we’re very proud of.”

The Cherokee Nation created a self-exclusion program, with a Play Smart program readily available to guests and noted on all marketing materials. Employees receive training to guide guests who may have gaming problems so they may find the information they need to get help.

All guests can self-exclude for one year, five years or permanently. The person’s information and photo are collected. Before each shift, security personnel review photos of excluded guests and others. When excluded guests return, they are escorted off the property. If they do get in and win any money, those winnings are forfeited. That money goes to fund Cherokee Nation behavioral health programs and the Play Smart program, which educates the public on problem gambling.

Rod Fourkiller, general manager of the Keetoowah Cherokee Casino, said his facility also has a self-exclusion policy.Two or three people each month seek to exclude themselves from the premises because they realize they have a problem.

“It happens more often than most people realize,” he said. “We can refer them to Gamblers Anonymous, or we can refer them to a counseling service. They can come to any of our staff. If they realize they have a problem, they can come to us.”

The Muscogee Creek Nation makes Gamblers Anonymous resource material available to patrons at all of its gaming facilities. Gamblers Anonymous is an independent entity, Marshall noted.

Each program is available to people who believe they have gambling problems, regardless of tribal citizenship.      

All the tribes have security personnel at their casinos, and are able to call on the services of marshals or lighthorse officers as needed.

With 92 casinos currently operated by 34 tribes in Oklahoma, the market has yet to determine how many casinos are too many.

Derek Campbell, head of the gaming division in the Oklahoma State Office of Finance, said the number of new casinos has begun to slow down.

“I think we saw our big boom the past few years,” he said. “I think every tribe that can compact has compacted at this point.”

None of the casinos have closed, and they have provided financial impact to state government. In 2011, the state received $122 million in casino fees.

Of that amount, the first $250,000 goes to the Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse, then 88 percent goes to education. The last 12 percent is put into the state’s general fund.

Campbell expects only one or two new casinos a year to open in Oklahoma in the foreseeable future.

Locust said he doesn’t know when the growth in casinos will end.

“I think there’s a saturation point. I don’t know what that level is,” he said.

1
Text Only
Features
  • Dream, Brewdog’s to host music festivals

    One sign of spring’s arrival is the scheduling of music festivals, and 10 bands will visit a Tahlequah venue May 24, the Saturday before Memorial Day.

    April 17, 2014

  • rf-Zoe-thing.jpg Conference attendees get words of encouragement

    Words of encouragement and door prizes were bountiful Saturday morning at the annual Zoë Institute’s Women’s Conference.
    Ten women shared words of wisdom in areas from happiness to health, and 100 gifts were given out, including the grand prize of gasoline for a year.

    April 16, 2014 1 Photo

  • sp-symposium-art-panel.jpg Panelists discuss impact of Southeastern art

    Until recently, most people had a certain expectation of American Indian art – and it didn’t include images familiar to people in and around Cherokee County.
    “A lot of times, when people think about Native art, they immediately think of Plains art or Southwestern art,” said Roy Boney (Cherokee), Tahlequah artist and moderator of the panel discussion “Southeastern Indian Art: Building Community and Raising Awareness,” held Friday, April 11, at the NSU Symposium on the American Indian.
    Boney and the other panelists are frustrated by the divide between mainstream expectations of Native American art and their need for genuine self-expression.

    April 15, 2014 1 Photo

  • rf-Teacher.jpg Dickerson believes in putting the student first

    As a child growing up in Elk City, Cherokee Elementary teacher Debra Dickerson lined up the neighborhood children and animals to play school.
    “I’ve been a teacher ever since I could talk. My mother always said she knew where I was because she could hear me bossing everyone,” she said.
    The classroom then was a blanket tossed over limbs of her big cherry tree on Eisenhower Street. Recess was spent tree-climbing, running, riding in the bus (her red wagon) and being creative.
    “Those were the days before video games and TV,” she said.
    Dickerson, 2013-’14 Cherokee Elementary Teacher of the Year, believes a classroom should be a safe haven for children, because school is often the best part of their day.

    April 15, 2014 1 Photo

  • kh-trash-pickup.jpg Cleaning things up

    Lowrey was part of the Cherokee Nation’s Career Service Center contingency of 11 volunteers. Other volunteers cleaned up trash along the roadway from the Cherokee Casino to the NSU campus.

    April 15, 2014 1 Photo

  • SR-NinthAmendment.jpg Right to privacy leans partly on Article 9

    While the other articles of the U.S. Constitution’s Bill of Rights are straightforward – at least, enough for Americans to bicker over in court – the Ninth Amendment might cause a bit of confusion.
    It reads: “The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people.”
    There are no rights enumerated, and it might be difficult to argue one’s Ninth Amendment rights in court, though it has been done successfully.

    April 14, 2014 1 Photo

  • stickball-2.jpg Stickball

    The American Indian Science and Engineering Society and Native American Student Associationat Northeastern State University hosted a traditional stickball game as part of closing cultural activities during the 42nd annual Symposium on the American Indian Friday. Participants included, from left: Nathan Wolf, Disosdi Elk and Chris Smith.

    April 14, 2014 1 Photo

  • green-bldng.jpg City council to discuss ‘green building’

    Tahlequah City Council will hold a special meeting Friday, April 11, at 5:30 p.m. to discuss, among other items, applying grant money to renovate the city’s “green building” at the corner of Water and Morgan, near Norris Park.

    April 11, 2014 1 Photo

  • alcohol-info.jpg Alcohol screening can be critical

    It has been decades since Prohibition brought Americans gangsters, flappers and speakeasies, but statistics for alcohol addiction are staggering.
    Millions of Americans suffer from alcohol addiction and abuse, which affects families and friends.
    Today, April 10, is the annual National Alcohol Screening Day, and raising awareness through education, outreach and screening programs is the goal, according to the website at www.mentalhealthscreening.org.

    April 10, 2014 1 Photo

  • jn-CCSO-2.jpg Law enforcement agencies to get new facility

    Area law enforcement agencies will soon have a new training facility in Cherokee County.
    The Cherokee County Sheriff’s Office is building the new training room near its gun range, located north of the detention center. Sheriff Norman Fisher said tax dollars were not used for the building.
    “This is something we’ve been trying to work on, and it was built with no money from the taxpayers,” said Fisher. “It was paid for with drug forfeitures and gun sales.”

    April 9, 2014 2 Photos

Poll

What to you think of a state Legislature proposal to forbid cities from raising the minimum wage? Choose the closest to your opinion.

The federal government should set the minimum wage across the board.
States should be allowed to raise their minimum wages, but not cities.
Both states and cities should be allowed to raise their minimum wages.
Cities should be allowed to raise their mimum wages, but not states.
There should be no minimum wage at all.
Undecided.
     View Results
Tahlequah Daily Press Twitter
Follow us on twitter
AP Video
Raw: Orthodox Christians Observe Easter Rite Ceremony Marks 19th Anniversary of OKC Bombing Raw: Four French Journalists Freed From Syria Raw: Massive 7.2 Earthquake Rocks Mexico Captain of Sunken SKorean Ferry Arrested Raw: Fire Destroys 3 N.J. Beachfront Homes Raw: Pope Presides Over Good Friday Mass Raw: Space X Launches to Space Station Superheroes Descend on Capitol Mall Man Charged in Kansas City Highway Shootings Obama Awards Navy Football Trophy Anti-semitic Leaflets Posted in Eastern Ukraine Raw: Magnitude-7.2 Earthquake Shakes Mexico City Ceremony at MIT Remembers One of Boston's Finest Raw: Students Hurt in Colo. School Bus Crash Raw: Church Tries for Record With Chalk Jesus Raw: Faithful Celebrate Good Friday Worldwide Deadly Avalanche Sweeps Slopes of Mount Everest Police Arrest Suspect in Highway Shootings Drought Concerns May Hurt Lake Tourism
Stocks