Graphs show impact Cherokee Nation’s gaming has on Oklahoma’s economy
TULSA, OKLAHOMA – The Cherokee Nation is celebrating 10 years since Oklahoma voters overwhelmingly favored State Question 712, the constitutional amendment that allowed Oklahoma to level the economic playing field with other states and opened the door to a new market for tourism and hospitality in the state.
The successful ballot initiative known as the Oklahoma Tribal State Compact led to thousands of new jobs for Oklahomans and more than $895 million for the state budget from tribes like the Cherokee Nation. The state initially projected $71 million per year from the compact. Last year that number was more than $122 million.
“We’re so grateful voters were allowed to have a voice in growing our state’s economy by utilizing one of its most valuable assets – Oklahoma’s tribal nations. This level of success could not have been achieved without coordinated cooperation between tribal nations, educators, the state of Oklahoma and horsemen’s organizations like the Oklahoma Quarter Horse Association and the Thoroughbred Racing Association of Oklahoma,” said Cherokee Nation Principal Chief Bill John Baker.
“We’ve always taken pride in caring for our own citizens’ health care, housing and education needs, but the passage of State Question 712 also allowed tribal nations to directly contribute in a meaningful and substantial way to the state’s budget. Actual results over the past 10 years far exceeded initial projections, which means more money for Oklahoma schools and other services across our great state. It is rewarding to show 10 years later we not only accepted the challenge and met projections, but we’ve exceeded that initial pledge. It’s partnerships like these that are changing lives and making our state stronger.”
Cherokee Nation Chief Bill John Baker
State Question 712 was a constitutional amendment posed to Oklahoma voters that would allow the state to negotiate with Oklahoma tribes and horse racing tracks to operate Las Vegas-style casino games. The addition of electronic gaming at race tracks was a way for Oklahoma horse tracks to compete with tracks in neighboring states.
“When 712 was only a vision, we knew it was something that could greatly improve our state,” said Oklahoma Governor Brad Henry. “Over the past 10 years, this compact agreement has resulted in hundreds of millions of dollars to education in our state. I’m proud Oklahomans had the foresight to recognize what this would mean for our state and stood behind that vision at the polls.”
Today, 33 of 39 tribes in Oklahoma have a gaming compact with the state, and Las Vegas-style games are available at Cherokee Casino Will Rogers Downs in Claremore and Remington Park in Oklahoma City. The Cherokee Nation was one of the first Oklahoma tribes to agree to a gaming compact with the state following the Nov. 2, 2004, vote.
Since the compact agreement with Oklahoma was enacted, the Cherokee Nation has paid more than $126 million to support education in Oklahoma, and $100 million in fees to support the horse racing industry in Oklahoma. This is in addition to the Cherokee Nation’s government programs that also support education, housing, health care, roads and bridges, and other services.
“State Question 712 helped pave the way for a new entertainment and tourism market in Oklahoma. Our state already had much to offer, but gaming, concerts, golf and other entertainment amenities developed a new tourism market,” said Shawn Slaton, chief executive officer of CNB. “Never before have visitors from surrounding states come in such large numbers to experience what Oklahoma has to offer. We and other tribes provide an unforgettable experience to our guests. Beyond the additional tourism dollars, when tribes pursue new economic development activities, it automatically creates jobs and puts money back into state and local economies. None of this would have been possible without tribes, state educators, the horsemen and the state working together to achieve the same vision. We’re so grateful for everyone’s contributions and couldn’t be more pleased with how this partnership has worked out.”
Over the past 10 years, the Cherokee Nation has also leveraged gaming dollars to diversify into other areas of business. Since 2004, the tribe has created more than 4,000 jobs that span gaming, hospitality, information technology, personnel services, distribution, manufacturing, telecommunications, environmental services, and security and defense industries. In addition to that direct impact, Cherokee Nation has also created thousands of indirect jobs to support these industries.
A 2013 study by Oklahoma City University showed the Cherokee Nation had a $1.3 billion economic impact on Oklahoma. It also showed the tribe’s activities directly and indirectly supported more than 14,000 jobs, totaling more than $559 million in paychecks to the citizens of Oklahoma.