Tahlequah Daily Press

November 1, 2013

Oklahoma casinos see increase in income

From Staff reports

TAHLEQUAH — The Cherokee Nation is the largest Indian tribe in the nation, with an economic impact of $1.3B in Oklahoma. If an analysis of the nation’s gambling habits is any indicator, the tribe’s gaming operations are set to grow even more.

According to the Associated Press, Casino City’s North American Gaming Almanac say’s Oklahoma’s casinos saw revenue up 6.4 percent between 2010 and 2011, but lottery and horse racing revenue declined.

A study unveiled in September indicated CN and its business operations are responsible for about $1.3 billion in economic output across its 14-county jurisdiction in 2012, a figure that represents a 20 percent increase from the last economic impact study the tribe commissioned for fiscal year 2010.

Sheila Morago, the executive director of the state Indian Gaming Association, told an area metro newspaper that casino visits aren’t being made at the expense of other locations.

“If you go to a casino, you’re looking at going there instead of going to say, a dinner and a movie,” Morago said.

She said horse racing and lottery expenses are part of a different expense in people’s budgets.

The state ranked fourth in gaming revenue growth during the period covered by the story, behind Alabama, Maryland and Pennsylvania. Oklahoma also was fourth in the percentage of gaming income as a percentage of the state’s economy, behind Nevada, Mississippi and Vermont.

Casino income totaled $106.23 million in 2011, up from $99.81 a year earlier.

After adding in the more than 5,000 jobs indirectly created through third-party vendor contracts, the Cherokee Nation and CNB are in some way responsible for 14,188 jobs across northeastern Oklahoma.

“We put more than 9,000 people to work in Oklahoma every day,” Principal Chief Bill John Baker said. “That’s 9,000 people with access to benefits, such as insurance, a 401k and health care.

“We use local vendors, so that’s another 5,000 jobs in Oklahoma. We’re putting 14,000 people to work every day, and we’re not going anywhere. We’re simply like a corporate headquarters that is never leaving Oklahoma.”